WhatsApp Communities Will Make It Easier To Spread Misinformation, Critics Say

“It really works like a pyramid,” mentioned Nemer, whose research focuses on Bolsonarism, misinformation, and social media, and the “human infrastructure” behind political misinformation that spreads via WhatsApp. “On the high, you will have individuals who produce misinformation. Within the center, you will have Bolsonaro supporters who work like a swarm of bees to unfold misinformation on the platform. On the backside, it’s common Brazilians who’re in teams the place this misinformation finally ends up, they usually, in flip, unfold it to different teams they’re in.”

Communities, Nemer fears, will make it straightforward for the folks on the high to handle these misinformation networks.

Specialists like Nemer are proper to be involved. When WhatsApp introduced in April that it wouldn’t launch the characteristic till later within the 12 months, Bolsonaro was reportedly offended that the corporate wasn’t launching it instantly. In July, Brazil’s federal prosecutors reportedly requested the corporate to delay its launch till after the nation’s October elections to keep away from the unfold of pretend information and misinformation.

WhatsApp finally rolled out the characteristic 4 days after Bolsonaro’s defeat. When BuzzFeed Information requested if Meta had waited after the election to launch Communities, a WhatsApp spokesperson merely replied, “No.”

After this story was revealed, a WhatsApp spokesperson advised BuzzFeed Information that the characteristic wasn’t obtainable in Brazil but and wouldn’t be till January.

Through the years, WhatsApp has put guardrails in place to decelerate the unfold of misinformation on its platform, akin to clearly labeling forwarded messages, a significant supply of misinformation, and proscribing forwarding messages to solely 5 teams at a time. Now, the corporate is placing in an extra limitation: Individuals can solely ahead messages which can be forwarded to them to only one group at a time, as an alternative of 5.

“We consider it will meaningfully cut back the unfold of doubtless dangerous misinformation in group teams,” a WhatsApp spokesperson advised BuzzFeed Information.

Nonetheless, Nemer is skeptical. “The thought — having a gaggle of teams — is nice,” he mentioned. “However what’s the level of forwarding limits when now you can submit one thing to a single Announcement group and nonetheless attain far more folks than should you have been to ship a single ahead to a single group?”

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