PIB Fact Check; No, there are no red ticks on WhatsApp that indicate police action will be taken against you
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Amid the coronavirus outbreak, social media apps have ramped up efforts to tackle the spread of misinformation and fake news. On Tuesday, WhatsApp announced a new precautionary measure that would allow you to forward a message to only one person at a time, down from five earlier.

In recent times, the company is also working on new features such as allowing people to search the information they receive on Google. Users can also check how many times a message had been forwarded, to ensure that they don’t fall for incorrect information.

A new rumour that surfaced recently on WhatsApp however does not have anything to do with everyone’s favourite current topic, but rather attempts to warn people away from posting incorrect or unpleasant content. It explains, quite incorrectly, that the government may be reading your messages, or even tracking your data or taking legal action against you. The message goes on to explain how there are different indicators to understand whether this is happening.

We must reiterate that this is fake news, and on Tuesday even the Press Information Bureau ran a fact check debunking this theory.

“Messages circulating on Social Media reading 'WhatsApp info regarding √ tick marks' is #FAKE. The Government is doing no such thing,” the post read.

On WhatsApp, if you have your ‘Read Receipts’ turned on, one tick means the message has been sent while two means that it has reached. When the ticks turn blue it can be surmised that the message has been read.

As per the forward however there are more variations. Three blue ticks, it says indicates that the message has been noticed by the government. Then comes red ticks – two blue and one read tick indicates that the government can take action against you, while two red ticks alongside a single blue tick supposedly indicates that the government is screening your data. Three red ticks, the fake forward adds, means that the government has initiated action and that you will receive summons from court.

In addition to PIB’s reiteration that the government is doing no such thing, we feel compelled to point out that there is no system for three ticks on WhatsApp, irrespective of colour. Additionally, while offensive content or anything incendiary that you may have sent can indeed get you punished (or reported on the app), coloured ticks would not indicate whether the court is going to summon you.

This is not the first time such a forward has made the rounds. In October 2019 too a similar message had made the rounds, prompting The Free Press Journal to conduct a fact check. You can read the earlier article, which also has several tips on how you can prevent fake news from being spread.

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Free Press Journal