Hyderabad: Social media users are sharing a voice message claiming that WhatsApp has been banned. Netizens also claim that users will be charged for using the app in the future.

"WhatsApp will be off from 11:30 pm to 6:00 am. This has been announced by the central government. If you want to be safe, you need to share this message with all your contacts. We are aware that since yesterday downloading videos and pictures has been stopped. The number of WhatsApp users has increased which is not good for the country. If you do not share this message, your WhatsApp will become invalid. In the next 48 hours, your WhatsApp account will be shut. Do not ignore the message. Once your WhatsApp account is shut, you'll have to pay Rs 499 every month which will be deducted from your bank account. You need to send this message to 50 people. If even 10 people receive the message, your WhatsApp logo will turn into a blue. To keep it active, you need to send this message to 8 people. If you do not share, your WhatsApp will be closed from Saturday (sic)," reads the English translation of the viral message

Fact check

The claim is a hoax.

NewsMeter firstly searched for any such official statement by WhatsApp. However, we found none.

The team then performed a keyword search using 'WhatsApp being charged', which led us to a report by The Journal published on April 22, 2020. The Journal had debunked WhatsApp forward that claimed the app will no longer be free to use.

According to the report, a spokesperson of the messaging app said, "WhatsApp is a free service which does not currently or plan to charge users to send messages or make audio or video calls. We encourage all users to check facts before sharing messages that have been forwarded to them."

The Fact check team had further found reports by The Indian Express and India Today that had debunked a similar claim in 2019.

"Facebook-owned WhatsApp has not officially said anything about the service being charged or banned. Neither the central government nor Google has been circulating messages that indicate this. This is not the first time that an outage has become an opportunity for some to circulate fake messages with misinformation," The Indian Express reported.

"There are several variants of the messages. While one claims that WhatsApp is going to be banned in India due to government policy, another one claims that the outage was due to "some inconvenience in our satellite connection" and that downloading of photos, videos, and audio clips, etc have been disabled in WhatsApp for one week. Interestingly the message has been signed by Google, which has nothing to do with WhatsApp. Another message notes that if anyone tries to use WhatsApp between 11.30 pm and 6 am, they will be fined Rs 499 by the Indian government," India Today reported.

It is therefore evident that the viral voice message is a hoax. WhatsApp has neither been banned nor will be changing for its services. The viral message has been making rounds since 2019.

Claim Review :   WhatsApp services being charged and banned
Claimed By :  Social Media Users
Fact Check :  False

Tejal Sinha

Tejal Sinha is currently a Fact Checker at NewsMeter. She is pursuing Masters in Journalism and Communication from St Francis College for Women. She is open to learning new things while exploring the road to unbiased journalism. She has also been awarded best report by women journalists, 2021. You can follow Tejal on Twitter @SinhaTejal

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