Fueling civil disobedience in democracy: WhatsApp news use, political knowledge, and illegal political protest

Homero Gil de Zúñiga, Manuel Goyanes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior scholarship has consistently shown that informed citizens tend to better understand government actions, expectations, and priorities, potentially mitigating radicalism such as partaking in illegal protest. However, the role of social media may prove this relationship to be challenging, with an increasingly pervasive use of applications such as WhatsApp for information and mobilization. Findings from a two-wave US panel survey data show that WhatsApp news is negatively associated to political knowledge and positively associated to illegal protest. Less politically knowledgeable citizens also tend to engage in illegal protest more frequently. Results also suggest an influential role of political knowledge in mediating the effects of WhatsApp news over illegal protests. Those who consume more news on WhatsApp tend to know less about politics which, in turn, positively relates to unlawful political protest activities. This study suggests that WhatsApp affordances provide fertile paths to nurture illegal political protest participation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNew Media and Society
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science

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