HKS Authors

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In this paper, we argue that WhatsApp can play an important role in correcting misinformation. We show how specific WhatsApp affordances (flexibility in format and audience selection) and existing social capital (prevalence of strong ties; homophily in political groups) can be leveraged to maximize the re-sharing of debunking messages, such as those accessed by WhatsApp users via ChatBots and Tip-Lines. Debunking messages received in the format of audio files generated more interest and were more effective in correcting beliefs than text- or image-based messages. In addition, we found clear evidence that users re-share debunks at higher rates when they received them from people close to them (strong ties), from individuals who generally agree with them politically (in-group members), or when both conditions are met. We suggest that WhatsApp leverages our findings to maximize the re-share of those fact-checks that are already circulating on the platform by using the existing social capital in the network, unlocking the potential for such debunks to reach a larger audience on WhatsApp.


Pasquetto, Irene V., Eaman Jahani, Shubham Atreja, and Matthew Baum. "Social Debunking of Misinformation on WhatsApp: The Case for Strong and In-group Ties." Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction Volume 6.CSCW1 (April 2022): 1-35.