About the Project

How do people use private social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat or Apple Messages to discover and share information?

This project focuses on people’s everyday experiences, social contexts, and media diets to investigate how potentially misleading information spreads online.


Misinformation is when false or misleading information is shared, but no harm is meant by the sharer. It is unintentional behaviour that may inadvertently mislead. It is different from disinformation, which involves an intention to mislead and cause harm.

Understanding the Everyday Sharing of Misinformation on Private Social Media is a 3-year Leverhulme Trust funded project to develop more contextualised understandings of why people share—or do not share—false and misleading information on private social media.

The research features two phases. Phase one involves in-depth and longitudinal qualitative fieldwork with members of the UK public. Insights from phase one inform phase two: national panel surveys of the UK population.

This project was conceived in May 2019 and funded in March 2020. Fieldwork, delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, began March 2021. It is being conducted by researchers in Loughborough University’s Online Civic Culture Centre (O3C)

Project objectives


To explain the complex mix of social, political, and technological factors that lead individuals, in their everyday social settings, to challenge false and misleading information and decide not to share it online.


To generate new concepts and data that update and expand the idea of digital literacy.


To establish the links between specific digital literacies and informed and responsible citizenship.

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