A new viral message is causing trouble for WhatsApp users around the world, as clicking on a black spot, contrary to what the message warns you, will cause the app to hang. However, the apparent prank message doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about, according to a number of recent reports.
As noted by the International Business Times, the message is essentially a prank, as it notifies users that touching the “black point” below the text will cause WhatsApp to hang. That means that the prank does work, though it doesn’t appear to have any long-lasting negative effect on the app, nor does it seem to pose any danger to a user’s mobile device. A screenshot of the prank posted by India Times suggests that the WhatsApp “black spot” message only affects Android users, but has yet to affect anyone using the messaging app on iOS devices.
Although it might appear at first that the black spot itself is causing WhatsApp to momentarily hang once someone taps on it, India Times explained that there’s something else in play that makes the prank effective, if supposedly harmless in the long run. Once converted into HTML, the blank space after the dot reveals the repetition of the text “&rlm:,” which serves as a control character, or an otherwise invisible marker placed in between batches of text to signify the two batches are different.
Citing an example of how control characters work, India Times wrote that they can be used when inserting English words in an Urdu document, as the text goes from right to left in the latter language. Using the control character “$lrm;” would allow the English word to appear on the Urdu text in traditional left-to-right order.
— Discovery.info (@_Discovery_info) May 6, 2018
When the technique was applied in the WhatsApp “black spot” prank, a host of control characters were used, one after the other, to overload the app and force it to hang. This had the potential of fooling users into tapping the dot, as the characters that overloaded WhatsApp with such intensity weren’t visible on the screen anyway. However, both the International Business Times and India Times stressed that the prank isn’t anything to lose sleep over, with the latter publication opining that it might have been created by someone who had “too much time on their hands.”