• WhatsApp in Sierra Leone : burning bridges or building them?

      Silverman, Jon; ; University of Bedfordshire (Indiana University Press, 2020-11-19)
      The text messaging application WhatsApp has been heavily criticized for acting as a vehicle for the spread of misinformation and unsubstantiated rumour, leading, in some parts of the world, to violence and even death. But the closed nature of WhatsApp groups has presented a structural problem as a subject for credible social science research. A collaborative project between the Universities of Bedfordshire (UK) and Sierra Leone has tracked messaging in an experimental student WhatsApp group using critical discourse analysis in order to generate a deeper understanding of discursive influences in a fragile society. It asks whether the affordance of a WhatsApp group necessarily amplifies offline polarizations and explores routes to consensuality in a divided post-conflict state. It concludes that more robust interventions by group administrators could foster free speech while avoiding the need for intrusive regulation from outside agencies. Key words – social media; discourse; rumours; WhatsApp;ethno-regional;divisive