The number of YouTube videos shared in WhatsApp discussion groups has grown 21 times since the beginning of March, according to a survey by the Getúlio Vargas Foundation's Public Policy Analysis Board (FGV-Dapp). The research center has for years studied the political debate and the circulation of information on digital platforms.
The FGV-Dapp survey considered messages exchanged in 162 public political debate groups on the app – which can be accessed through invitations. In the period, more than 830.2 thousand messages were collected.
The debate on the new coronavirus (Sars-Cov-2) took place in 153 groups, with mentions of Covid-19 disease in 67,000 messages.
G1 analyzed the 30 most shared video links in these groups between March 2 and March 26 (until noon). And 14 of these videos (46%) have incentives for behaviors that disregard health guidelines, present false information or ignore the impact of the disease. The material was divided into these three categories of disinformation:
- videos that go against the guidance of doctors and scientists – 6 links;
- videos with lies about Covid-19 and coronavirus – 4 links;
- videos that minimize the effects of the disease – 4 links.
The other 16 of the 30 most shared do not bring misinformation – they are comments and collective interviews, for example. One of the videos was removed for violating YouTube guidelines.
For Victor Piaia, a researcher at FGV-Dapp, YouTube has always been a dominant destination among links shared in political groups, but he adds that the growth during the month of March is "non-standard and shows the urgency of the topic".
"The symbiosis between Whatsapp and YouTube is very strong. Not only does our research show this, several others as well. It is very relevant," says Piaia.
Number of links jumped from 254 to 5,000
Throughout the month of March, the sending of links via WhatsApp that directed to YouTube grew. FGV-Dapp's analysis took into account the increase in three different periods of the month:
- between March 2 and March 10, 254 links were sent that directed to YouTube in the groups
- between 11 and 18 March, the number rose to 2,557
- between the 19th and the 26th, 5,572 YouTube links were shared
Understand the three categories of misinformation
In G1's analysis of the content of the videos, the most shared video among those that contradict the guidance of experts is the statement made on Tuesday night (24) by President Jair Bolsonaro. In his statement, he called for "a return to normal" and an end to "mass confinement".
In an effort to prevent the worsening of the Covid-19 outbreak, a disease caused by the coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends social detachment and contraindicates agglomerations. And public health officials in several countries seriously affected by the pandemic, such as China, Italy and Spain, recommend that people stay at home.
The link to the TV Brasil channel with Bolsonaro's pronouncement was also the most shared throughout the month among those evaluated by FGV-Daap and was mentioned in 285 messages shared in the analyzed universe. The president's speech received criticism from health professionals and scientists.
Other videos that go against experts' guidelines talk about "hysteria" (a term also used by Bolsonaro), that isolation actions can "create social chaos" and that current measures "will completely break the country".
The most shared video in the "lies" category, on the other hand, mentions that China did not have "affected economic growth" in crises such as the coronavirus. It happens that the country, due to Covid-19, had a contraction in industrial production for the first time in 30 years, in addition to a reduction in other economic indicators.
Other lies included in three other videos say that:
The video most shared with information that minimizes the effects of coronavirus and Covid-19 states that the disease will kill only "old people and immunocompromised children".
The WHO has already issued a warning stating that young people are not immune to the coronavirus. In addition, there are reports of the death of healthy young people.
Another three videos in this category call the disease "gripezinha", stating that the coronavirus "is not dangerous for those who are healthy" or saying that "death rate is within the normal range".
However, on Thursday, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus wrote on social media: "The Covid-19 pandemic is accelerating at an exponential rate. Without aggressive action in all countries, millions could die."
Coronavirus: health experts warn of the danger of fake news
Cafeteria owners discover that an attendant helped a burglar after she went online on WhatsApp on a cell phone stolen by a criminal – Photo: AFP