Concerns over the private encrypted network by which millions of people now communicate has long been a staple of discussion in both the corporate and political spheres. Whilst most people use networks such as WhatsApp to simply chat with friends and discuss Game of Thrones in groups, the more sinister potential for harm has been ever-present.
Recently, one example of such abuse was made acutely clear when a rumour began spreading via group chats on the platform in a West London community that read: “Guys if anyone has Metro Bank account with money or locker. You need to empty as soon as possible. The bank is facing lot of financial difficulties and may be shut down or going bankrupt.”
By 4pm the same day, queues of panicked people were seen inside six Metro Bank locations in London, with many citing the chat as the reason for wanting to close their account. By the time the markets opened on Monday morning, the company’s stock had fallen nine per cent.
And whilst the impact of the panic did cause damage to the bank’s profitability, the rumours were completely unfounded.
“We’re aware there were increased queries in some stores about safe deposit boxes following false rumours about Metro Bank on social media and messaging apps,” a Metro Bank spokesperson told Wired. “There is no truth to these rumours, and we want to reassure our customers that there is no reason to be concerned."
But in an age in which a single message can seriously affect the profitability of a bank, how safe can any company be?
Whilst the concept of a ‘bank run’ is far from a modern creation, we’re yet to see how the impact of the internet could alter the scale and breadth to which internet gossip can impact the business world. As in the case of Metro Bank, it’s extremely hard to police networks that are specifically designed to be encrypted, which has seen WhatsApp actively assert that it is imposing measures on users to stem the flow of viral messages, policing its 1.5billion active users.