Is Whatsapp Giving Away Free 50GB Internet Bundles?

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A message (see below) circulating on WhatsApp claims to be advertising a 50GB internet bundles giveaway.

According to the text message, the 50GB offer is supposedly in celebration of WhatsApp’s anniversary and the mentioned free bundles are apparently up for grabs for WhatsApp users across all networks. Attached to the message is a link where users can supposedly redeem the bundles.

Background

WhatsApp is one of the top social media platforms, with two billion users globally. Hootsuite’s Digital 2020 report shows that WhatsApp is the third largest social media platform globally after Facebook and YouTube respectively.

The platform has however been criticized for its notoriety in the spread of fake news.

Piga Firimbi recently looked into a false claim shared on WhatsApp alleging that the government of Kenya was offering citizens Ksh 3,300 each.

WhatsApp has since introduced a ‘Forwarded’ label on, well, forwarded messages as well as limiting the same to at least 5 forwards for each message for each user. This is in addition to a public sensitization campaign on the same that has seen it share ‘tips to help prevent the spread of rumours and fake news’ in a bid to curb the fake news menace among its users and beyond the platform.

Verification

Upon clicking the link attached to the message offering the 50GB internet bundles, users are required to fill a survey then forward the message to 20 other people or 5 groups after which they can apparently redeem the free bundles.

A WHOIS search of the website reveals that the site has only been in existent for about a year. Its domain registration information is also hidden using WhoIsGuard, a privacy protection service that prevents people from seeing the name, address, phone number, email address and other personal information of a domain registrant. This quite a contrast to the domain registration information available for WhatsApp’s website, whatsapp.com which is as captured below:

Similarly, WhatsApp official communication channels – the website, Twitter and Facebook accounts – where announcements to users are ordinarily communicated, do not contain any information regarding a data bundles giveaway.

The claim that WhatsApp is currently celebrating its anniversary is false. WhatsApp was founded 11 years ago on February 24, 2009. The company has publicly marked its founding on that day with new feature reveals over the years. Last year, it shared this on its Twitter page:

As such, any anniversary-related giveaways would be expected at arround this time, not in September.

Verdict

The WhatsApp message claiming that WhatsApp is issuing free internet bundles is a HOAX.

Note: User data has previously collected in such dubious circumstances has been used in spam campaigns in addition to being used to enrol unsuspecting users to premium-rate messaging services that cost them money. For your own safety, please refer to WhatsApp’s recommended safety measures.

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Linda Ngari