WhatsApp seems to be the go-to place if you want to spread vicious or chaotic rumors.
If you’ve followed the news surrounding social media, then you’re already aware that misinformation in a huge threat. Past events in India and Mexico have seen people killed as a result of misinformation spread on WhatsApp in particular. Now, it would appear that misinformation can cause untold chaos at a bank branch and even cause said bank’s stock to lose some of its value.
A false rumor spread on WhatsApp caused dozens of angry customers to storm into a Metro Bank in London demanding their cash and jewelry. These angry customers were the victims of rumors which caused them to believe that Metro Bank is closing down and that their funds are in danger. Metro Bank was victimized in its own ways, as the bank’s stock took a 9% hit, presumably as part of the result of this chaos. One Metro Bank employee remarked that “people are panicking over nothing” according to Business Insider. In reality, there was never a reason to worry, and everyone’s cash and jewelry is still safe and sound.
Fortunately for Metro Bank, this confusion only seemed to take place within a small geographic area. The vast majority of Metro’s 67 locations were unaffected, but this confusion has clearly demonstrated once again how difficult it can be to combat misinformation on social media. WhatsApp has been criticized in the past for its very private end-to-end encryption, which has offered criminals and propagandists of various sorts the ability to communicate and co-ordinate misinformation campaigns and other criminal acts. On the other hand, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, offers over one billion people worldwide access to a messaging service that doesn’t suffer the same privacy concerns as WhatsApp’s parent company.