Have you ever received one of those text messages or emails that promises bad luck or good luck if you forward the very important message to 10 people? Or a series of really cute pictures of kitty cats or babies? Of course, we all have! We assume that those friends of ours (it is always the same people that send us these messages) are extremely superstitious or perhaps just having a little fun. For others, the messages become warnings, a matter of life and death.
Recently in Nigeria, a rumor spread via text message like wildfire warning the receiver that there were 7-10 deaths reported after accepting a phone call from “09141”. The text warned that if they answered calls from this particular phone number, they would drop dead. The Nigerian Communications Commission called this possibility “unimaginable,” and denounced the rumor as “unscrupulous.”
“It is not possible for such a thing to happen,” said Reuben Muoka, a commission spokesperson. “It is only very gullible people that will believe such a rumor.” The report strains credulity but isn’t the first time a rumor has frightened the uneducated among Nigeria’s residents, who previously encountered false bomb warnings and even hearsay of acid rain that burned people alive.
The African incident follows last week’s false Twitter reports that drug cartels attacked a school in Veracruz, Mexico, inducing panic among parents who raced to the school to check on their children. The two people responsible for this rumor were arrested for terrorism and sabotage.”Here, there were 26 car accidents, or people left their cars in the middle of the streets to run and pick up their children, because they thought these things were occurring at their kids’ schools,” said Gerardo Buganza, interior secretary for Veracruz state.
For some it’s a game, but for others it can cause mass chaos. While the incident in Nigeria is pretty far-fetched, most would have to admit that if they were to receive a text message warning that their child’s school was shot upon they would fall prey attempting to get there as quickly as possible. Both of these incidents show just how quickly information can be spread using modern technology, even if it’s fear mongering misinformation, legitimate news or just a funny joke.