Dynamics of social corrections to peers sharing COVID-19 misinformation on WhatsApp in Brazil

Santosh Vijaykumar*, Daniel Rogerson, Yan Jin, Mariella Silva de Oliveira Costa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Online COVID-19 misinformation is a serious concern in Brazil, home to the second-largest WhatsApp user base and the second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths. We examined the extent to which WhatsApp users might be willing to correct their peers who might share COVID-19 misinformation.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional online survey using Qualtrics among 726 Brazilian adults to identify the types of social correction behaviors (SCBs) and health and technological factors that shape the performance of these behaviors.

RESULTS: Brazil's WhatsApp users expressed medium to high levels of willingness to engage in SCBs. We discovered 3 modes of SCBs: correction to the group, correction to the sender only, and passive or no correction. WhatsApp users with lower levels of educational attainment and from younger age groups were less inclined to provide corrections. Lastly, the perceived severity of COVID-19 and the ability to critically evaluate a message were positively associated with providing corrections to either the group or the sender.

DISCUSSION: The demographic analyses point to the need to strengthen information literacy among population groups that are younger with lower levels of educational attainment. These efforts could facilitate individual-level contributions to the global fight against misinformation by the World Health Organization in collaboration with member states, social media companies, and civil society.

CONCLUSION: Our study suggests that Brazil's WhatsApp users might be willing to actively respond with feedback when exposed to COVID-19 misinformation by their peers on small-world networks like WhatsApp groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberocab219
Pages (from-to)33-42
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Medical Informatics Association : JAMIA
Volume29
Issue number1
Early online date22 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022

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