Dynamics of Feedback Behaviours to Social Peers Sharing COVID-19 Misinformation on WhatsApp in Brazil

Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Santosh Vijaykumar, Daniel Rogerson, Yan Jin, and Mariella Silva de Oliveira Costa. (forthcoming). “Dynamics of Feedback Behaviours to Social Peers Sharing COVID-19 Misinformation on WhatsApp in Brazil.”

Abstract: 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 themselves might be willing to correct their peers who might share COVID-19 misinformation. We conducted a cross-sectional online survey using Qualtrics among 726 Brazilian adults to identify types of peer feedback behaviours and health and technological factors that shape the performance of these behaviours. We discovered three ways in which feedback may or may not be delivered to social peers: active feedback to the group, active feedback to the sender only (private), and passive or no feedback. Our study found that those with lower levels of educational attainment and from younger age groups were less inclined to actively provide feedback. Lastly, we found that perceived severity of COVID-19 and the ability to critically evaluate a message were positively associated with providing feedback to either the group or privately the sender. The demographic analysis points to the need to strengthen information literacy among population groups that are younger with lower levels of educational attainment. These efforts could facilitate micro or individual-level contributions to the global fight against the infodemic led by the World Health Organisation in collaboration with member states, social media companies and civil society. 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.

Yan Jin 

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