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FactCheck: Is the 'Martinelli' virus real and can it hack your phone through Whatsapp?

Commonly shared around WhatsApp groups, it portends great doom coming to your phone.


CROPPING UP FROM time to time in our WhatsApp groups is a stark warning that must be shared with others about a video that – if you open it – will hack your phone and can’t be fixed.

The “Martinelli” video will allegedly install malware on your phone that will wreak havoc and deal irreparable damage.

A version of this warning has shared widely again across a number of WhatsApp groups for months now, and has started to crop up again?

Claim: If I open the Martinelli video, will it hack my phone and damage it beyond all repair?

Verdict: False

It’s entirely false. It’s not real. It’s made up. It is without foundation.

The FactCheck

So what exactly does the message say?

It comes in a few different iterations. It could reference a warning from an IT colleague, or a fictitious garda who’s issued the warning.

The following two pictures come from two different Irish WhatsApp groups and have been shared this year.



The basic message is always the same. A video is coming out tomorrow from WhatsApp called Martinelli. Under no circumstances should you open it because “it hacks your phone and nothing will fix it”.

Before fear grips you and you delete your WhatsApp, however, it should be said that this is a complete hoax.

No Martinelli video ever gets sent. It doesn’t hack your phone.

It’s actually just the kind of chain mail that was common many years ago when we were playing Snake 2 on our Nokia 3310s.

The kind of “pass this message on to 10 people or you’ll have bad luck” kind of thing.

It actually originated in Spain, and it got such traction that the police there thought it’d be a good idea to send a tweet to debunk it.

They said simply “don’t share it”.

The verdict

So there we have it. Next time it gets shared in a WhatsApp group you’re in, tell it like it is. It’s not real.

And definitely don’t send it on.

So, we were asking “If I open the Martinelli video, will it hack my phone and damage it beyond all repair?”

For the reasons listed above, we rate this claim as FALSE.

As per our verdict guide, this means: The claim is inaccurate.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

About the author:

Sean Murray

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