22 June 2017 | | BBC
WhatsApp is becoming one of the prevailing ways people discover and discuss news, according to a study.
But use of the messaging app appears to vary widely between countries.
In Malaysia, more than 50% of those surveyed said they used WhatsApp for news at least once a week. But in the US, the figure was only 3%, and in the UK it was 5%.
The Digital News Report also indicates the Brexit debate has led to growing mistrust of the UK’s media.
Its use of end-to-end encryption means messages can only be seen by their senders and recipients, offering users protection against being monitored by the authorities.
“Some of the biggest growth we’ve seen is in places like Turkey, where it’s positively dangerous for people to express anti-government preferences on open networks like Facebook,” explained one of the study’s authors, Nic Newman.
“As a result people are using closed groups where they are more confident of expressing their views.”
WhatsApp has also benefited from the fact that in much of Latin America and elsewhere mobile networks are offering unlimited data use within the program, so encouraging its use.
Furthermore, several Spanish and Chilean media outlets have embraced the app. Radio stations commonly ask listeners to send in short voice recordings via the service, and local news sites have added share-to-WhatsApp buttons to their pages.