Why it’s so hard to stop fake news on the giant messaging platform.Sinduja Rangarajan
This story was originally published on Mother Jones and has been updated.
Not long ago, a close relative of mine forwarded a message on a WhatsApp family group that claimed rasam cures coronavirus. Rasam, a soup-like concoction of herbs, tamarind juice, and lentils, is the cultural equivalent of chicken soup (but vegetarian) in South India, where I am from. Normally, I’d search on the internet to check if a post that seemed suspicious was false, like one I saw that claimed that a well-known British writer had endorsed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (He didn’t.) But in this case, I didn’t have to Google anything to know this was factually incorrect. As a friend pointed out on Twitter, rasam may cure homesickness and winter blues, but it is no cure for coronavirus.
When I politely pointed out that they might have sent a fake post, the sender retorted, “It has pepper and jeera [cumin] and it will build up your immunity.” All I could do was 🙄.
A few days later, another relative forwarded a post in WhatsApp with “facts about the coronavirus” supposedly put out by UNICEF. While most of the “facts” were innocuous, including instructions to vigorously wash hands, some were unproven, like a claim that the virus can’t survive a
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