As social networks and app stores crack down on purveyors being discharged and a new way to go viral for violence, sensational, call-based lies: forwarded text messages.
It is unclear how many people have sent or received the texts, as person-to-person messaging is difficult for researchers to track. NBC News received many tips and screenshots of messages from people who say they were sent from friends or family. The messages have already made their way to some prominent conservatives, who have extended them on social media.
The text message has been specifically aimed at users permanently banning President Donald Trump and promoting QAnon by Twitter. Twitter said on Monday that it has suspended 70,000 accounts since the riots.
A viral, false conspiracy theory shared across the US claiming users to disable automated software updates on their cellphones claims that the next patch disables an emergency broadcasting system message from President Donald Trump will do it. False rumors are usually linked to another urban legend about a blackout coming in the next two weeks and requiring people to “dress up with food and water”.
Another viral text is a link to a deceptively edited video, also known as “CheapFake”, which first appeared on social media platforms such as Twitter, Parler, and a series of mashed-up speeches by Trump The feature, which has been redesigned to lead viewers wrongly believes that the president is calling for a rebellion on 20 January.
Chain-mail-style text message disinformation is not new, but it can prove dangerous for how messages are delivered. The messages are usually forwarded by a friend, so they carry the emotional weight of a personal plea for help rather than a simple Facebook rumor, which can easily be ignored.
“I think that when we see panic in this way, chainmail and people try to circumvent different systems, it talks about all kinds of anxiety that we are not able to communicate and our communication How important is the system, ”said Joan Donovan, Director of Research, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.
“When it is in crisis, some people are going to take advantage of it, and others are going to spread rumors, so that people can be warned.”
Social media platforms that allowed the QAnon conspiracy theory to flourish are now moving to ban accounts that spread its evidence-free claims. But those restrictions could push communities to other digital avenues, including text messaging, where visibility is low for researchers and law enforcement.
The private, chain-mail-style dissolution played an important role in Myanmar’s genocide in 2017, after UN investigators found that the Rohingya clung to rumors about Muslims and saturated Facebook’s messenger service.
In the US, hidden viral text messages escalated in the first weeks of the coronovirus epidemic, warning recipients of impending “martial law” and often citing an anonymous source in government or a friend who knew the daughter of a well-known physician.
Some forms of the iPhone update rumor also include references to martial law, claiming that the information comes from friends who are government insiders. The Trump supporter was heavily publicized by Trump lawyer Lynn Wood, who on Sunday removed some of his posts from Parler before the site went offline.
The conspiracy theory was initially pushed by QAN accounts that said for a long time that the country would descend into widespread blackouts before the president would warn the country with a message about mass arrests and the execution of Democrats .
A variation of the rumor gives specific instructions for disabling automatic updates on iPhone and Android smartphones. The rumors have reached conservative media figures and personalities, such as country singer John Rich, who told users how to disable auto-updates and wrote on Twitter: “If you see an update pending on your iPhone, You want to stop that. “
Donovan said the rumors are a sign of powerlessness and confusion among those who believe “they are about to uproot and remove from normal communications infrastructure” after Trump was banned in the Capitol last week for inciting a riot.
“What’s happening in the context of corporate denial, because it is playing on such a large scale, it is creating conditions that people will believe that martial law is coming,” Donovan said.
“Media manipulators often play at these moments that soothe confusion and anxiety, and this ultimately puts people in a more insane situation.”