In recent weeks, a message that has been dubbed as the “WhatsApp Text Bomb” or “Black Circle of Death” has been making its rounds around the world. This seemingly harmless message forwarded to the masses on WhatsApp that causes the application – and for some users, even their devices – to crash. The message first surfaced sometime during the past week and quickly started making headlines as panic-struck smartphone users began lodging complaints on support forums fearing the worst.
Once you click the emoji – be it a black circle, or a smiley face or any number of other options – your WhatsApp will freeze. In the panic gripped seconds that follow, with every possibility from being secretly recorded to having unknowingly installed malware running through your mind, does #WhatsAppHang finally make sense. While most users may be able to return to their homescreens, there have been increasing reports of both Android and iOS devices crashing after opening this message.
Thanks to sleuths who analyzed the message, here is what we know so far: basically this message contains hidden or invisible characters. These characters are code for changing the text direction from left to right and right to left. These characters are generally invisible and have been part of computer-based typesetting ever since multiple language support (most prominently Arabic) was made part of standard operating systems. Known as the “Left to Right Mark” (&lrm) and “Right to Left Mark” (&rlm), they allow users to conveniently switch between English, اُردُو, عَرَبِيّ, and a whole range of other languages, supporting functionality and ease of access for billions around the world.
The WhatsApp Circle of Death message contains nearly 6000 of these typesetting characters. According to experts, the reason this causes the hang is that WhatsApp simply cannot handle this volume of text direction changes at once. So, there you have it, readers, the mystery of the WhatsApp Text Bomb finally explained – in our opinion. Surprisingly, both Google and WhatsApp are silent over this “bug” so far, which has generated significant headlines and complaints over the past week.
This brings us to the most important question – should you forward it to others? At this time, there is no information available to suggest that this message contains any threats. While you may be curious and finally have the right excuse to message that someone special, in light of the fact that it may cause both Android and iOS devices to crash, it may be better to keep yourself and your less tech-literate contacts away from this message.