In Brazil, Whatsapp Is The Main Carrier For Fake News; In The US, It's Facebook

Brazilian cellphone carriers' habit of charging for SMS services popularized the messaging app in the country

Paula Leite
São Paulo

Some elements help to explain why in the US elections, Facebook was the carrier of fake news and misinformation, while in Brazil WhatsApp fell into the same role.

WhatsApp growth in Brazil is closely related to the country's cellphone carriers' habit of charging SMS messages by the unit.

Instead of paying a few cents per text message, as the phone companies would have it, the user pays a few cents for the data usage and sends thousands of messages in the application -- that is, if she already doesn't have one of the many data packages, some pre-paid, where WhatsApp use is unlimited.

In the United States, where for several years phone carriers have been offering packages with unlimited messages, mobile apps like WhatsApp didn't take.

However, text messages are an inferior option to forward photos and videos.

Another issue is that, although it's possible to create SMS group chats, there are limits to the number of users and they are not as easy to use as WhatsApp groups.

In countries like the United States, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom, Facebook "won" the fight for users' attention, while in Brazil, Argentina, India, and Indonesia, among others, the winner was WhatsApp.

It's not like Brazilians are not on Facebook -- the platform has even more active users (people who logged in the site in the last 20 days) in Brazil than WhatsApp: 127 million against 120 million.

But Comscore data shows that Brazilians linger for more extended periods on WhatsApp than Facebook on mobile, which points to a more intense use of the former.

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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