False rumors on WhatsApp, the world's largest messaging app, have led to mob lynching in India and other countries. Doctored videos sent over the platform have elicited visceral responses among users, resulting in the wrongful death of innocent people. Would the responses have been so strong if the false news were circulated in text or audio? Is video modality the reason for such powerful effects? We explored this question by comparing reactions to three false stories prepared in either text-only, audio-only, or video formats, among rural and urban users in India. Our findings reveal that video is processed more superficially, and therefore users believe in it more readily and share it with others. Aside from advancing our theoretical understanding of modality effects in the context of mobile media, our findings also hold practical implications for design of modality-based flagging of fake news, and literacy campaigns to inoculate users against misinformation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Computer Science Applications
- Computer Networks and Communications