Skip to main content

WhatsApp is becoming an increasingly popular news source

whatsapp business app phone feature
Image used with permission by copyright holder
The burgeoning problem of fake news over the last several months has underscored the role that social media plays in our news consumption. And it doesn’t look like that role will be getting any smaller anytime soon. According to new data from Digital News Report, WhatsApp is becoming an increasingly popular source of news, and in some parts of the world, has overtaken its parent company Facebook as the go-to purveyor of information.

As per the new report (which was conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism), “the use of WhatsApp for news is starting to rival Facebook in a number of markets, including Malaysia (51 percent), Brazil (46 percent), and Spain (32 percent).” And while 47 percent of study respondents overall still check out Facebook to see what’s going on in the world, this figure has actually dropped in over 50 percent of countries surveyed when compared to 2016.

Taken as a whole, it doesn’t appear that WhatsApp is gaining much ground — after all, only 15 percent of overall respondents said that they used the messaging service to stay informed. But on a country-by-country basis, the picture begins to shift. In Brazil, the 46 percent of people who use WhatsApp as their top news source represents a 7-percentage-point growth over last year. In Spain, 32 percent rely on WhatsApp for news, a 6-point increase from last year, and in Turkey, the study found an 8-point increase.

So why the sudden uptick in popularity?

The Reuters Institute surmised that “more closed and private messaging … allows users to share without fear of embarrassment,” whether this content is comprised of photos or potentially contentious news articles. Moreover, price plays a part, as free WhatsApp is generally included in phone contracts (particularly enticing in developing markets). And finally, because WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption, it is often viewed as a safe means of sharing sensitive information. As the Institute noted, “This is true in Hong Kong where WhatsApp, We Chat, and Facebook Messenger are popular and in Turkey where a quarter of our sample (25 percent) share news via WhatsApp.”

But even as these messaging services become more popular, they’re not necessarily viewed as more trustworthy. Less than a quarter of respondents said that social media is good at differentiating between fact and fiction. So keep looking for the truth, friends — although it may not be where you spend your social media time.

Editors' Recommendations

Lulu Chang
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Fascinated by the effects of technology on human interaction, Lulu believes that if her parents can use your new app…
What is WhatsApp? How to use the app, tips, tricks, and more
WhatsApp logo on a phone.

There’s been no shortage of instant messaging apps over the past decade, as the rise of advanced smartphone platforms has created the need for more sophisticated ways to communicate than traditional SMS text messages allowed for.

In fact, the Apple App Store and Google Play Store are both littered with apps that promised to be the next big thing in mobile communications. Yet, many of those fell by the wayside as they failed to achieve the critical mass of users needed to make them useful. After all, apps designed for communicating with others don’t do you much good unless enough folks are using them. Luckily, WhatsApp made our list of the best iPhone Apps and our infamous list of the best Android apps out there.

Read more
Boring Report is an AI app that revolutionized how I read the news
Boring report app on iPhone

I recently wrote about an app called Shortwave and its AI summarizer feature, which turns long, bland emails into short summaries with most of the core details intact. I've gotten used to that convenience to such an extent that I now want a summarized version of all the content that I read online, especially verbose news stories. By sheer luck, I came across the listing of a new app called Boring Report.

The app promises to “remove sensationalism” from news and relies on an AI capable of “generating humanlike text” to make them boring to read. Of course, these AI-generated summarized articles are not a substitute for the real stories that require considerable human effort, but if you are running short on time, but want to get a brief overview of everything that’s happened in the past 24 hours across different fields, Boring Report is the app that deserves room on your phone.

Read more
How to know if someone blocked you on WhatsApp
WhatsApp logo on a phone.

While it's still not won mass adoption in the U.S., WhatsApp is the world's most popular messaging app, and billions use it every day to chat with friends, family, local groups, and even businesses. But such an enormous user base means not every interaction is going to be positive, and that's why WhatsApp has a blocking system to prevent you from seeing messages you don't want to see.

It's entirely possible you've been blocked by a few people yourself -- but how would you know? Unlike blocking on social media sites like Twitter, WhatsApp doesn't let you know if you've been blocked, leaving you somewhat in the dark. However, there are a few ways to figure out if you've been blocked by a specific user, even if there's no list you can check to find out for sure. Here they are:
You can't see any changes to their profile picture or status

Read more