A viral link claiming to be the Ministry of Education’s scholarship to offer free laptops to students is fake, the government’s fact check unit informed. A message viral on WhatsApp is claiming that the Ministry of Education, Government of India, is providing free laptops to support online learning.
The claim in the viral WhatsApp message reads, “The Ministry of Education has a distribution schedule for laptops to be given out to families to help support virtual learning.” The message provides a link to a webpage that also makes a similar claim stating that the government will provide 500,000 free laptops.
Prompting the user to check their eligibility, the website asks for their name, pretends to verify their identity and request the user to share the link to at least 20 WhatsApp chats. Once a user has completed the step, the website redirects to a spam advertisement.
The Press Information Bureau (PIB), an agency that disseminates information from the government, has refuted the fake claim made in the WhatsApp message. PIB asked users not to give out personal information the link.
It is not so unusual to receive WhatsApp messages with links that claim that the receiver has won prizes such as a free expensive smartphone or just a shoe. One key thing that is common in all these messages is that they necessarily ask the receiver to circulate it into at least a fixed number of WhatsApp chats. However, sometimes, the claims that accompany these links appear real and hard to discard, such as when they appear to be circulating information about government schemes and use official government logos.
The debunked message appears to target students who do not have laptops. While the message is fake, the lack of proper access to the online learning environments is very real. The issue was also raised in parliament in March, to which the government had said it would address the concerns.