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WhatsApp Favourite Tool for Right-wing to Influence Voters, Find Researchers

The survey stated that 96 per cent of the sample population received fake news via WhatsApp

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FILE - The WhatsApp app logo is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration. VOA

In a significant find, researchers have discovered that right-wing users are more effective in using Facebook-owned WhatsApp to spread news, disinformation and opinions during elections.

After performing the first large-scale analysis of partisan WhatsApp groups in the context of Brazil’s 2018 election, the researchers from Northwestern University found that right-wing groups in Brazil were much more numerous and shared substantially more multimedia content and YouTube videos than left-wing groups.

With more than 120 million users, Brazil is the second-largest WhatsApp market in the world after India which has 400 million users of the Facebook-owned platform.

“Our ultimate goal is to understand how information and misinformation spreads, so we can find technological interventions,” said Larry Birnbaum, the study’s senior author.

“We want to find ways to help people better evaluate the information they receive. Media literacy has not caught up with rapid changes in technology,” Birnbaum added.

From September 1 to November 1, 2018, Birnbaum and Victor Bursztyn followed 232 partisan groups.

During that time, they collected 2.8 million messages from more than 45,000 users (This is 3.5 times as many messages and 2.4 times as many users than the largest competing dataset to date).

The team discovered multiple differences between right- and left-wing groups.

In the studied sample, right-wing groups shared 5.5 times as many messages as left-wing users.

Of the messages shared by right-wing users, 46.5 per cent were multimedia messages, such as photos, audio and video files. Just 30 per cent of left-wing messages included multimedia.

Conference, Privacy, Social Media
FILE – Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to logos of social media apps Signal, Whatsapp and Telegram projected on a screen in this picture illustration. VOA

“It’s hard to say whether multimedia is more effective in influencing opinions, but right-wingers are more savvy in using them,” said Birnbaum. “Images are always more compelling than text.”

They also found that the most-shared news by WhatsApp groups during the 2018 presidential election campaign came from websites that spread disinformation, as identified by several fact-checking agencies.

“Data suggests that both sides consume this content, but it’s a more prevalent problem on the right,” Birnbaum said.

The team will present their findings at the IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining in Vancouver, Canana, on Friday.

During the general elections in India this year, WhatsApp was blamed for influencing voters.

WhatsApp turned out to be the biggest social media platform for more than 87,000 groups to target millions with political messaging, according to social media experts.

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Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, in a commentary piece, accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of influencing voters via social media platforms in Lok Sabha elections and WhatsApp being their favourite medium simply because of its massive reach.

Despite tall claims made by Facebook that it is removing 10 lakh fake accounts a day in India, a recent survey by online start-up Social Media Matters and New Delhi-based Institute for Governance, Policies and Politics revealed that one in two Indians receive fake news via Facebook and WhatsApp.

The survey stated that 96 per cent of the sample population received fake news via WhatsApp. (IANS)

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WhatsApp to Support “Call Waiting” Feature

Meanwhile, the latest WhatsApp beta update has brought three new options for dark mode on the app

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WhatsApp
Call waiting is available in v2.19.352 stable (APK Mirror) and above of WhatsApp, and v2.19.128 (APK Mirror) of WhatsApp Business. Pixabay

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has become the latest Voice over Internet Protocol services provider to support call waiting feature even as the company has skipped adding call holding for now.

When you’re already talking on the phone and another person tries to call you, most phones and operators let you know that you’ve got a call waiting. Very few VOIP services support that, though, and WhatsApp wasn’t among them until now, Android Police reported on Friday.

Earlier, when somebody would try to call you on WhatsApp while you were already on the phone, they would hear it ring, but, no one would answer. The call would then get disconnected.

Call waiting is available in v2.19.352 stable (APK Mirror) and above of WhatsApp, and v2.19.128 (APK Mirror) of WhatsApp Business, the report added.

WhatsApp
Facebook-owned WhatsApp has become the latest Voice over Internet Protocol services provider to support call waiting feature even as the company has skipped adding call holding for now. Pixabay

Meanwhile, the latest WhatsApp beta update has brought three new options for dark mode on the app.

The light theme would offer a white background. Dark theme, as the name suggests, would enable dark mode on WhatsApp, according to WABetaInfo, a fan website that tracks WhatsApp updates.

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Another option, which is ‘Set by Battery Saver’, dark mode would be activated only when the smartphone’s battery level drops below a certain point. This third option is said to be available only for smartphones running on Android 9.0 or older. (IANS)