A Small World? WhatsApp’s Big Misinformation Problem

A collage of Facebook’s ‘free street’ in Menlo Park, California
Collage: Facebook’s ‘free street’ in Menlo Park, California, 2020

“The free street has emptied out; yet the rest of us, behind our closed doors, are more reliant on WhatsApp than ever.”

“WhatsApp is so powerful because it is so deeply intimate.”

  • Claims: images taken from a different time or place that spread panic and uncertainty, like images of stampedes at supermarkets that were actually taken five years ago.
  • Comedy: memes, mash-ups and fake leaks, humour ranging from dry to dark to daft, like CNN reports that ‘Sex Cures Coronavirus’.
  • Conspiracies: rumours and organically growing fears, presented as truths: ‘it’s a pandemic engineered by pharmaceutical companies’ or ‘it was created by an evil mastermind to wipe out the old and the sick’.
  • Cures: fake promises of protection with home recipes, instructions and how-to guides, from blowing a hairdryer up your nose to wearing your mask inside out to stop germs coming in.
  • Cons: things you can buy that will save you from the pandemic: anti-malarial drugs, home remedies and rare supplies from companies that don’t exist.

“Much ado has been made about the ‘like’ button in the ‘attention economy’ but it’s time to start talking about the ‘share’ button in the ‘misinformation economy’. ”

--

--

--

Tactical Tech is an international NGO that engages with citizens and civil-society organisations to explore and mitigate the impacts of technology on society.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

How To Grow Your Instagram Account

The Credibility of Influencers and Our Role

Facebook Live

What are the best trending hashtags on Twitter for 2021

Twitter’s Path to Profit Is Exactly the Opposite of What Elon Musk Thinks It Is

3 Tips To Get You Started on the Internet’s Scariest Social Media Platform

Influencers, Unite! — The Rise of the Collab House in the Land of TikTok

What the Future Holds

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Tactical Tech

Tactical Tech

Tactical Tech is an international NGO that engages with citizens and civil-society organisations to explore and mitigate the impacts of technology on society.

More from Medium

A Bird of Prey

KA-BOOM! Australian inflation goes through the roof

Why Batteries Are Not So Green!

#TIL: Used Batteries Em-Powering Rural India