WWW 2019
Conference paper

(Mis)information dissemination in WhatsApp: Gathering, analyzing and countermeasures

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WhatsApp has revolutionized the way people communicate and interact. It is not only cheaper than the traditional Short Message Service (SMS) communication but it also brings a new form of mobile communication: the group chats. Such groups are great forums for collective discussions on a variety of topics. In particular, in events of great social mobilization, such as strikes and electoral campaigns, WhatsApp group chats are very attractive as they facilitate information exchange among interested people. Yet, recent events have raised concerns about the spreading of misinformation in WhatsApp. In this work, we analyze information dissemination within WhatsApp, focusing on publicly accessible political-oriented groups, collecting all shared messages during major social events in Brazil: a national truck drivers' strike and the Brazilian presidential campaign. We analyze the types of content shared within such groups as well as the network structures that emerge from user interactions within and cross-groups. We then deepen our analysis by identifying the presence of misinformation among the shared images using labels provided by journalists and by a proposed automatic procedure based on Google searches. We identify the most important sources of the fake images and analyze how they propagate across WhatsApp groups and from/to other Web platforms.