Google denies Gmail is shutting down after viral hoax

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Google has had to publicly state Gmail is "here to stay" after a hoax claiming it was shutting down spread widely on social media.

A post on X, formerly Twitter, which has been viewed more than seven million times, claimed it would be closing in August.  Google took to the same platform to rebuff the false claim.  A communications expert told the BBC it was "a classic example" of the dangers of misinformation.  "Most people believe what they see online, and there's a lack of tools and processes to verify the facts," said Richard Bagnall, boss of communications evaluation firm Carma.  "Whilst social networks can act without responsibility and pump unfiltered, unverified information to their audiences, this Gmail incident won't be the last case we'll see."

All social media platforms struggle to stop misinformation, but X has been singled out for particular criticism on the issue, with the EU claiming in 2023 it was worse than its peers in terms of spreading falsehoods.

The company has previously said it is committed to "tackling hate speech" but also wants to "protect free speech".

The BBC has approached X for comment about this hoax, which appears to be based on a real email sent by Google in 2023. It notified people that Gmail would stop access to its most basic HTML view.

The original HTML view was used when Gmail launched in 2004, and would be unrecognisable to most people who use the service nowadays.

"We are reaching out to share an important update about Gmail," the viral post reads.

"After years of connecting millions worldwide, enabling seamless communication, and fostering countless connections, the journey of Gmail is coming to a close."

Gmail is the world's most popular email service, with more than 1.5bn active users worldwide, according to Statista.

And despite emphatically rejecting the false claims in the hoax message, it is true that Google has shut some services in recent years.

In 2023 alone, Google killed its Stadia gaming service, its Snapchat-like YouTube Stories feature, and it began closing old and inactive Gmail accounts.

It has announced plans to close Google Podcasts, though this functionality has effectively been supplanted by YouTube Music, which it also owns.

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