WhatsApp and transparency: an analysis on the effects of digital platforms´ opacity in political communication research agendas in Brazil




Palabras clave:

Algorithmic transparency, WhatsApp, Environmental opacity, Political communication, Privacy, Mobile instant messaging services, Research ethics, Policies


This article aims to discuss what we call environmental opacity, a condition of mobile instant messaging services (MIMS) that operates on the basis of end-to-end encryption systems. Utilizing WhatsApp as a specific example, the article presents two fundamental dilemmas around which some issues concerning transparency are mobilized when it comes to digital private communication. The first of them relates to how end-to-end encryption has simultaneously become an asset and a problem for democratic environments; on the one hand, protecting users´ privacy, and on the other, allowing for the circulation of misinformation and harmful content. The second dilemma deals with how this environment of opacity impacts the ethics and transparency of scholarly research focused on WhatsApp and other MIMSs. The paper also reviews an extensive body of studies that discuss the political uses of WhatsApp in different dimensions, and argues that emerging countries with large user bases, such as Brazil and India, have experienced a series of negative effects after the adoption of WhatsApp by politically oriented groups. Among the main proposals, the article suggests some measures to foster platform transparency and facilitate scientific research instead of hindering it.


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Cómo citar

Chagas, V., & Da-Costa, G. (2023). WhatsApp and transparency: an analysis on the effects of digital platforms´ opacity in political communication research agendas in Brazil. Profesional De La información, 32(2). https://doi.org/10.3145/epi.2023.mar.23



Artí­culos de investigación / Research articles