WhatsApp was the setting for different controversies in 2018. Scams involving famous brands, such as Burger King and Cacau Show, tried to steal users’ personal data, and the Momo phenomenon disturbed children and teenagers using the chat. In addition, a flaw involving the squirrel emoji stopped the messenger and even cell phones.
At fake news they also became a recurring subject involving the app, after a series of rumors spread across the platform causing the lynching and death of several people in India. The fatality caused the company to change its sharing policy. Here in Brazil, the false news moved the presidential elections. Check out the biggest controversies related to WhatsApp in 2018 below.
Questions and answers about the Momo phenomenon on WhatsApp
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A chain became famous in May for revealing a bug and causing WhatsApp to crash on Android devices. A message containing the squirrel emoji and the message “don’t touch here” caused the app to freeze after touching or trying to remove the balloon. Users had to restart the app or smartphone to resolve the issue.
WhatsApp: failure can crash application and cell phone with just one message – Photo: Bruno De Blasi / dnetc
The failure occurred because the message contained more than 4,000 hidden characters, an amount higher than that supported by WhatsApp – which made the app unresponsive. To delete the message, you had to use the web version of the messenger or delete the conversation entirely. Even though it was not a virus, the squirrel caused a lot of inconvenience among users.
Throughout the year, criminals have publicized fake promotions involving famous brands through WhatsApp in an attempt to trick users and steal their data. More than 350,000 people clicked on a malicious link that used the Burger King brand, which offered discount coupons on snacks in restaurants. For this, the user should answer an online questionnaire, inducing victims to install fake apps that infect the cell phone.
WhatsApp scam used supposed Burger King discount coupons (Photo: Press Release / ESET) – Photo: Press Release / ESET
The image of the Cacau Show was also used by the bandits, this time publicizing a false selection process to work at the chocolate company. According to DFNDR, PSafe’s specialized laboratory, more than 1 million people accessed the link. The cosmetics company O Boticário was also a victim of this practice, when criminals copied a real promotion from the chain and created a fake link with the same characteristics of the original offer.
All companies cited said the promotions were fake. The guideline is always to look for the official channels of the brand to find truthful information, such as website and social networks with a verification stamp.
In July 2018, WhatsApp changed its message forwarding mechanism worldwide after a series of rumors spread over the chat causing the deaths of more than 20 people in India. The false news involved human trafficking and the kidnapping and sale of children in the region. After the episode, the messenger created the content forwarding limit for a maximum of five people or groups in India.
In the rest of the world, including Brazil, this limit is now 20 conversations. Remember that the rule of five referrals started to be tested in the test version of the app. Until then, there was no limit to the sharing of messages.
WhatsApp allows you to report fake news and inappropriate messages on the platform – Photo: Rodrigo Fernandes / dnetc
During the presidential elections in Brazil, the messenger was also involved in news reporting fake news, even banning hundreds of thousands of accounts suspected of sharing fake news. The measure was taken after the publication of a report by Folha de São Paulo that denounced the illegal firing of messages against the Workers’ Party (PT) through the app.
WhatsApp has taken steps to curb the sharing of fake news on its platform. In addition, a tool created by researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) helped readers to identify false content in the messenger. WhatsApp also explained that it is possible to report fake news via cell phone, whether iPhone (iOS) or Android, in the app settings, and also through the web version of the messenger.
Momo disturbed children on WhatsApp – Photo: Aline Batista / dnetc
Using a terrifying photo of a Japanese sculpture, the character Momo disturbed children and teenagers on WhatsApp in July. Through a number from Japan added to the phone book, the character talked to the victims with the possible intention of stealing data from his family. The danger of the conversations was compared to the deadly Blue Whale game.
According to experts, the content of the conversations was not healthy and, after winning the child’s trust, the information sent by the victims could be used in an attack. Over time, telephone numbers from other countries and even chatbots have been assigned to Momo.