Image: © rozelt/depositphotos.com
This story was first published on October 7, 2013
Circulating warning claims that cross-platform instant messaging application WhatsApp will start charging a per message fee unless users send the same warning to at least 10 contacts thereby proving that they are ‘avid users’.
The message is just a silly hoax. WhatsApp is NOT about to start charging users for sending messages. The supposed warning is a new variant of several previous hoaxes. Sending on this absurd warning will help nobody.
According to this circulating message, come Saturday, cross-platform instant messaging application, WhatsApp is set to “become chargeable”.
The message claims that, unless the recipient sends the same warning to at least ten contacts, the company will “activate billing” on the account and each message sent will subsequently attract a fee. By sending the information to ten other people, suggests the message, customers can prove to the company that they are “avid users” and thereby retain their free service.
Supposedly, after users have dutifully sent the message to ten or more people, the app’s logo will turn blue, thus signalling that the account will stay free.
However, the message is just a silly hoax. WhatsApp, which is now owned by Facebook, is not about to start charging a per message fee as claimed.
In fact, the warning is just one in a series of silly hoaxes that have targeted WhatsApp. A previous version that made the same false claims suggested that the logo would turn red rather than blue:
Hallo everybody. 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. To become a frequent user send this message to 10 people who receive it (2 ticks) and your WhatsApp logo should turn Red to indicate a frequent user
Another variant falsely claimed that the WhatsApp servers were becoming too full and that users who wished to keep their accounts were required to send a message to their entire contact list to prove that they were still active users and avoid a fee.
WhatsApp has dismissed the messages as hoaxes via its website.
Alternative versions of the same hoax have targeted users of several other high profile Internet entities, including Facebook, MSN, and Hotmail. Such silly claims are a favourite Internet prankster trick because they effectively fool a lot of recipients into passing on the messages. In reality, any message that claims that you must pass on information to other users in order to retain a free service or avoid your account being disabled is almost certain to be a hoax.
Service providers already know how active you are. Even if they did decide to start levying fees on less active users, they certainly would not require customers to prove their activity levels by passing on an inane message.
To reiterate, WhatsApp is not set to start charging users on a per message basis and has not announced any plans for such a revenue model. Information on the WhatsApp website explains:
Because WhatsApp Messenger uses the same internet data plan that you use for email and web browsing, there is no cost to message and stay in touch with your friends.
If you receive this hoax message or any of its variants, do not pass it on to others. And take a minute to let the sender know that the warning is a hoax.
WhatsApp users should also note that criminals have attempted to distribute malware by sending fake voice mail notification messages that falsely claim to be from WhatsApp.