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WhatsApp on regional elections: The myth of the general-purpose

While the debate on Whatsapp in Colombia has been making headlines, there is not a lot of input on the topic. In 2018, Linterna Verde published a report on Whatsapp in the presidential elections and this time, we wanted to focus on the 2019 regional elections, where territorial conditions, the scope of the campaigns and the use of the platform, presented a different scenario. Specifically, we addressed two questions: How was Whatsapp used in the regional campaigns, and what was the relationship between its use and disinformation?

In order to understand how the platform was being used, this research was based on twenty (20) semi-structured and off-the-record interviews with candidates and campaign workers for mayoral and gubernatorial elections in Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and Barranquilla. At the same time, off-the-record conversations were held with employees of companies that provide mass messaging services, in order to get an idea of the scope and limitations of these services. Additionally, at the request of Linterna Verde, the pollster Cifras y Conceptos included a module on the use of Whatsapp in the 'Polimétrica' survey, in October 2019, in the four cities mentioned above.