A First Look at COVID-19 Messages on WhatsApp in Pakistan


Abstract: The worldwide spread of COVID-19 has prompted extensive online discussions, creating an infodemic on social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Twitter. However, the information shared on these platforms is prone to be unreliable and/or misleading. In this paper, we present the first analysis of COVID-19 discourse on public WhatsApp groups from Pakistan. Building on a large scale annotation of thousands of messages containing text and images, we identify the main categories of discussion. We focus on COVID-19 messages and understand the different types of images/text messages being propagated. By exploring user behavior related to COVID messages, we inspect how misinformation is spread. Finally, by quantifying the flow of information across WhatsApp and Twitter, we show how information spreads across platforms and how WhatsApp acts as a source for much of the information shared on Twitter.

Recommended citation: Rana Tallal Javed, Elaaf Shuja, Muhammad Usama, Junaid Qadir, Waleed Iqbal, Ignacio Castro, Gareth Tyson and Kiran Garimella (2020) A First Look at COVID-19 Messages on WhatsApp in Pakistan. IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining 2020 .