Viral Messages Claiming WhatsApp Will Become Chargeable Are False

BOOM found that WhatsApp itself has debunked the viral claim in 2012.

Social media posts claiming that users will have to pay to use WhatsApp unless they forward a particular text to 20 people, are false. WhatsApp is a free to use app and till the time of filing this report, it has not announced any plans to charge users for texting services.

The viral posts, attributed to alleged WhatsApp officials Varun Pulyani and Jim Balsamic, claim that due to an increase in the number of users, WhatsApp has been forced to start charging for its services unless users forward the message to 20 contacts.

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The viral posts reads 'We are requesting all users to forward this message to their entire contact list. If you do not forward this message, we will take it as your account is invalid and it will be deleted within the next 48 hours. Please DO NOT ignore this message or whatsapp will no longer recognise your activation. If you wish to re-activate your account after it has been deleted, a charge of 25.00 will be added to your monthly bill. We are also aware of the issue involving the pictures updates not showing. We are working diligently at fixing this problem and it will be up and running as soon as possible. Thank you for your cooperation from the Whatsapp team" WhatsApp is going to cost us money soon. The only way that it will stay free is if you are a frequent user i.e. you have at least 10 people you are chatting with (sic).

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Another post shared multiple times on social media reads 'Hi Guys...✅ FINAL NOTICE Dont ignore please read it carefully" Hello, I. Am VARUN PULYANI director of whatsapp, this message is to inform all of our users that we have sold whatsapp to Mark Zuckerberg for 19 billion $. WhatsApp is now controlled by mark zuckerberg. If you have at least 20 contacts send this sms and logo of your whatsapp will change to a new icon with facebook's "f" within 24 hours'.

The messages have been shared several times on Facebook.

Click here for archive.

The post has been shared from several Facebook profiles and pages, and has been viral in the past too.

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BOOM also received a minute-long video clip of an India TV news report with a claim that messaging on WhatsApp will be suspended between 11.30 pm and 6 am daily as per the directions of the Narendra Modi government.

The video further says that in order to avoid this, one has to forward 'this' message to everyone in their contact list. If the message is not forwarded, WhatsApp will become invalid for the user. The video further adds that to restart a suspend WhatsApp account, users will have to pay 499 Rs which will be deducted every month from their account.

Fact Check

BOOM found that while WhatsApp did have a subscription model, it did away with the practice to become a free-to-use app in 2016.

In 2012, fact-checking website Hoax Slayer had debunked a similar claim of WhatsApp becoming a pay-and-use app. WhatsApp also rubbished the claim in a blog post stating that the message was a hoax.

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Viral Video

BOOM ran a keyword search using "India tv whatsapp viral video" and found a 2019 video uploaded on India TV's YouTube channel titled 'Fake News is being spread using a doctored IndiaTV Viral Alert video'. The 2.17 minute video is a news report debunking the same claim.

The viral video has been culled from the 0.19 mark to 1.19 mark in the original video. The tickers in the viral video are different from the video uploaded by the channel on YouTube.

In the original video, the anchor begins by stating that a viral message claims that the Modi government has directed users to forward the message to 50 people within 48 hours to continue using the app for free. The reporters spoke to cyber security expert who also debunked the claim.

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BOOM has also reached out to WhatsApp to confirm the names of the officials mentioned in the viral posts. The report will be updated once we receive a reply.

Claim Review :   WhatsApp will charge users to use the app unless the message is shared with 50 contacts.
Claimed By :  Social media posts
Fact Check :  False
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