WhatsApp rises as a source of news for many people around the world

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According to a study conducted by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in over 30 countries, WhatsApp has become more than just about staying in touch with friends and family. The Digital News Report shows that the chat messaging application has become a source of news for many people.

Even-though Facebook provides news from people just like WhatsApp, Facebook’s algorithms decide what is news and what isn’t in the end. Some of the algorithms aren’t the best at deciding what is fact and what is fiction. Hence, people in the countries Malaysia, Brazil, Spain, Finland,  Greece, South Korea and USA among others that were a part of the study seem to trust news on WhatsApp. With WhatsApp, users get end-to-end encryption which makes them feel safe to voice their opinions and share news without fear of having the news taken down because it doesn’t align with someone’s views.

Another reason for the rapid rise of WhatsApp as a news source is the fact that some people don’t trust news from publications whether online or traditional paper. It’s understandable because in some countries, the publications tend to be very biased towards one perspective and end up framing things in that way. Also in some countries, WhatsApp now comes bundled with whatever Internet package they have and sometimes for free and unlimited.

We here in Zimbabwe have had our own case of fake news circulating on WhatsApp. However, there are some groups on WhatsApp that provide good and credible news that most rely on. Even-though the study didn’t include any African countries, there’s no doubt that people locally rely on WhatsApp and Facebook for some news if not most.

WhatsApp has even made it difficult for anyone to distribute news automatically as they haven’t given developers a way to create bots that can interface with WhatsApp and send updates automatically. If this was the case, there is no doubt that some of us wouldn’t buy data for news as we will just access it in one application for less money.