There is currently no easy way to discover potentially problematic content on WhatsApp and other end-to-end encrypted platforms at scale. In this paper, we analyze the usefulness of a crowd-sourced tipline through which users can submit content (“tips”) that they want fact-checked. We compared the tips sent to a WhatsApp tipline run during the 2019 Indian general election with the messages circulating in large, public groups on WhatsApp and other social media platforms during the same period. We found that tiplines are a very useful lens into WhatsApp conversations: a significant fraction of messages and images sent to the tipline match with the content being shared on public WhatsApp groups and other social media. Our analysis also shows that tiplines cover the most popular content well, and a majority of such content is often shared to the tipline before appearing in large, public WhatsApp groups. Overall, our findings suggest tiplines can be an effective source for discovering potentially misleading content.

How to cite: Kazemi, A., Garimella, K., Shahi, G. K., Gaffney, D., & Hale, S. A. (2022). Research note: Tiplines to uncover misinformation on encrypted platforms: A case study of the 2019 Indian general election on WhatsApp. Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Misinformation Review.

Case Study
Election Trends
Social media


  1. Online conversations are heavily influenced by news coverage, like the 2022 Supreme Court decision on abortion. The relationship is less clear between big breaking news and specific increases in online misinformation.
  2. The tweets analyzed were a random sample qualitatively coded as “misinformation” or “not misinformation” by two qualitative coders trained in public health and internet studies.
  3. This method used Twitter’s historical search API
  4. The peak was a significant outlier compared to days before it using Grubbs' test for outliers for Chemical Abortion (p<0.2 for the decision; p<0.003 for the leak) and Herbal Abortion (p<0.001 for the decision and leak).
  5. All our searches were case insensitive and could match substrings; so, “revers” matches “reverse”, “reversal”, etc.



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Published on

January 31, 2022
July 17, 2023