The Propaganda Lab at the Center for Media Engagement expanded its research into the use of encrypted messaging apps (EMAs) for political talk, analyzing both how EMAs are used by people for everyday political talk and how EMA technology is being used for coordinated manipulation campaigns in Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Ukraine.
Our team conducted 21 semi-structured interviews between June and October 2021 with makers and trackers of propaganda and disinformation campaigns on EMAs in the mentioned four countries.
Our analysis revealed three major thematic findings:
- The propaganda that spreads via EMAs in these countries is dynamic, meaning that it has been optimized for EMAs rather than for traditional media.
- EMA use is (partially) socially constructed — some people use EMAs because they are encrypted, but this often isn’t the primary reason users choose them; they are often focused instead on other elements of the apps, like staying in touch with family and friends.
- Although these platforms enable intimate, private communication, they are also used to “blast” — broadcast or amplify — propagandistic content to many people at once.