Reconsidering Misinformation in WhatsApp Groups: Informational and Social Predictors of Risk Perceptions and Corrections
In a survey study of WhatsApp users across 3 different countries (N = 3,664), we tested how misinformation processes on messaging apps are driven by the levels of information shared versus social dynamics within messaging groups. Integrating recent perspectives, we offer a conceptual model that distinguishes (1) the informational activity of users and (2) trust among group members as predictors of misinformation outcomes within WhatsApp groups. Specifically, we focus on how content-sharing practices of users and characteristics of messaging groups (size, type, homogeneity) explain information exposure and group trust, which then predict misinformation risk perceptions and corrections. Structural equation models revealed that contributing content (vs. checking content) positively predicted (mis)information exposure, which then positively predicted risk perceptions and social corrections. Additionally, smaller, closer, and homogeneous groups were associated with greater group trust, which then predicted lower risk perceptions and, concurrently, more social corrections. Overall, the study shows the value of testing informational and social pathways in parallel.