Sharon Moshavi at Columbia Journalism Review: “News has migrated from print to the web to social platforms to mobile. Now, at the dawn of a new decade, it is heading to a place that presents a whole new set of challenges: the private, hidden spaces of instant messaging apps.
WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, and their ilk are platforms that journalists cannot ignore — even in the US, where chat-app usage is low. “I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, wrote in March 2019. By 2022, three billion people will be using them on a regular basis, according to Statista.
But fewer journalists worldwide are using these platforms to disseminate news than they were two years ago, as ICFJ discovered in its 2019 “State of Technology in Global Newsrooms” survey. That’s a particularly dangerous trend during an election year, because messaging apps are potential minefields of misinformation.
American journalists should take stock of recent elections in India and Brazil, ahead of which misinformation flooded WhatsApp. ICFJ’s “TruthBuzz” projects found coordinated and widespread disinformation efforts using text, videos, and photos on that platform.
It is particularly troubling given that more people now use it as a primary source for information. In Brazil, one in four internet users consult WhatsApp weekly as a news source. A recent report from New York University’s Center for Business and Human Rights warned that WhatsApp “could become a troubling source of false content in the US, as it has been during elections in Brazil and India.” It’s imperative that news media figure out how to map the contours of these opaque, unruly spaces, and deliver fact-based news to those who congregate there….(More)”.