The detectives of WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and the online discussion: Linterna Verde

This is the Colombian organization dedicated to clarifying the debate on digital platforms and their effects on society

The detectives of WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and the online discussion: Linterna Verde

On August 9, "Politics (in WhatsApp) is dynamic", a report that reports on the misinformation caused by the "chains" that circulated in the presidential election in Colombia. The study is thorough when it comes to explaining the behavior of these message chains, the reactions they provoke and the way they impact the political discussion.

Leer en español: Linterna Verde: los detectives de WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook y la discusión en línea

The report was prepared by Linterna Verde, whose work is located, in his own words, "at the intersection between the internet and society." This organization, beyond passing the political discussion on the internet by a filter of truths and lies, focuses on studying the mechanisms that allow the production and dissemination of information through social networks and other digital platforms.

An interdisciplinary group

The first thing that stands out about Linterna Verde is her team: a political scientist with experience in networks, a lawyer who has directed several journalistic projects, and a doctorate in international studies dedicated to computing. Cristina Vélez Viera, Carlos Cortés and Nicolás Velásquez allied from their multiple fronts to create a diverse organization with diverse interests. Since the beginning of this year, Linterna Verde has proposed addressing issues such as the gender biases behind the algorithms, the consequences of a hyper-connected society, the impact of Twitter on Colombian politics, among others.

Her first report, called "Gender Polygraph," was dedicated to monitoring the online gender discourses (Facebook and Twitter) that were handled by presidential candidates of Colombia and their vice presidential formulas. The study reported, for example, the difference between the way that Angela Robledo and the now vice president Marta Lucía Ramírez approached the subject of women: while the former focused more on the activist role of women and supported the hashtag #huelgafeminista (Feminist strike), the second handled a vision of women as victims of the armed conflict and promoted the hashtag #PropuestaPorUnaFlor (Proposal for a flower).

WhatsApp and the Colombian elections

In its second and most recent study, Linterna Verde examines the complex dynamics of WhatsApp at election time. From the way a "chain" is created, designed specifically to "capitalize" a lie or incomplete information, to the reasons that hold it back, the study analyzes the battlefield in which the networks become electoral times and its relationship with the media and polarization. These are some of the findings of the study:

  • It is not possible to affirm that the campaigns have promoted the chains, but that their same infrastructure and way of operating encourages them.
  • WhatsApp does not have the last word: Facebook and Twitter are also key agents in the distribution of "false chains".
  • Although most receive chains with skepticism, few take the time to verify the information received.
  • The policy is still seen as a private issue by the majority and many avoid the chains, so it is a minority that is dedicated to sharing these types of messages.
  • Videos are usually trusted more than texts or audios, without taking into account that the former can be as manipulated as the latter.

That the name of the organization reminds us of the superhero of the comics is not casual. In this digital age, in which there is suspicion of the intermission of Russian hackers in the presidential elections of the United States and the consultation of Brexit, in which demagogue lies are called "post-truth", and in which they form "Information bubbles" biased through social networks, it is necessary to understand the flow of online content and its effects, to avoid being victims of misinformation.


LatinAmerican Post | Nicolás Rodríguez Sanabria

Translated from "Linterna Verde: los detectives de WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook y la discusión en línea"