A message doing the rounds on WhatsApp claims three tick marks on a sent message means a government agency has read your chat and may take action against you.
It was shared widely among Nigerians shortly after the country’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, declared on 28 October 2019 that the government would regulate social media and other outlets used to spread fake news.
The message reads:
Dear WhatsApp user,
When you send a message by WhatsApp, you will notice a single tick at the end of your post, which indicates that your message has been delivered. You will find a pair when it’s received by the addressee. The pair turn blue when the recipient reads it. This is the normal process for most of the posts.
If you notice 3 blue ticks, it’s being observed by a govt agency. If you notice 2 blue ticks and one red tick, govt may take action, if necessary.
Versions of the message have circulated in different countries.
One stretched the possibilities to include:
One blue tick and two red ticks marks indicate that Govt. initiated action upon you for that message.
Three red ticks marks indicate that Govt. already taken action severe action upon you & shortly court summon will be coming to you for that message.
Repeatedly debunked hoax
The message has been debunked a number of times, especially in India, since July 2018.
Different fact-checks have established that it is not possible to get three tick marks on a WhatsApp message. It’s either one or two ticks, depending on the status of the sent message.
One grey tick mark means your message was successfully sent. Two grey ticks mean your message was successfully delivered to the recipient’s phone. Two blue ticks indicate that the recipient has read your message.
There are never three tick marks, and no red ticks.
WhatsApp messages encrypted
WhatsApp says it has built end-to-end encryption into the app to ensure that messages, photos, videos, voice messages, documents and calls are secure.
“Your messages should be in your hands. That’s why WhatsApp doesn’t store your messages on our servers once we deliver them, and end-to-end encryption means that WhatsApp and third parties can’t read them anyway,” the app’s security information reads.