What is Up on WhatsApp? A study on the impact of WhatsApp on tensions in Lebanon

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What is Up on WhatsApp? A study on the impact of WhatsApp on tensions in Lebanon

March 27, 2024

In 2022/2023, as part of the Tensions Monitoring System, UNDP commissioned a study on whether and how people use WhatsApp to create or contribute to incidents and tensions in Lebanon. The report was commissioned based on the noticeable shift in nature of information circulated on social media, coupled with an evident uptick in tensions and incidents. Using a mixed-methods methodology, the report provides few overarching insights into how WhatsApp is being used in Lebanon. The study concluded that WhatsApp is indeed a pivotal platform in Lebanon for everybody, used to obtain and share information and seen as a tool of free, convenient, rapid, and flexible communication. The perception of WhatsApp as a trustworthy platform likely contributes to its popularity and the ease with which information is shared among its users. This means that WhatsApp has great potential to influence both negative and positive sentiments. The unique nature of WhatsApp contributes to creating an environment where misinformation and disinformation can proliferate across various segments of society. While it plays a critical role in ensuring users communicate with one another and be adequately informed of current events, it may also impact tensions across Lebanon in a variety of ways. 

The report also provides programmatic recommendations on how to prevent and address tensions, fake news, and hate speech in Lebanon. To that end, UNDP focuses on supporting preventative capacities including for networks and infrastructures for peace, encouraging inclusive engagement and dialogue, and promoting the important role of youth, influencers and journalists in the media and social media space. Research of user behaviors provides additional insights into how UNDP and other stakeholders can best counter negative impact and better utilize social media tools for positive influence.