Academic Research

  • Working Paper

    Misinformation Exposure Beyond Traditional Feeds: Evidence from a WhatsApp Deactivation Experiment in Brazil

    Working Paper, May 2024

    View Article View abstract

    In most advanced democracies, concerns about the spread of misinformation are typically associated with feed-based social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. These platforms also account for the vast majority of research on the topic. However, in most of the world, particularly in Global South countries, misinformation often reaches citizens through social media messaging apps, particularly WhatsApp. To fill the resulting gap in the literature, we conducted a multimedia deactivation experiment to test the impact of reducing exposure to potential sources of misinformation on WhatsApp during the weeks leading up to the 2022 Presidential election in Brazil. We find that this intervention significantly reduced participants’ exposure to false rumors circulating widely during the election. However, consistent with theories of mass media minimal effects, a short-term reduction in exposure to misinformation ahead of the election did not lead to significant changes in belief accuracy, political polarization, or well-being.

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