Networks in a World Unknown: Public WhatsApp Groups in the Venezuelan Refugee Crisis
By early March 2020, five million Venezuelans had fled their home country after its complete economic and institutional collapse, and over 1.6 million have migrated to Colombia. Migrants struggle to start their lives over in Colombia, having arrived with few economic resources, and often no legal documentation, in cities with little to offer them. Venezuelan migrants, however, rely heavily on mobile phones and social media networks as lifelines for information, opportunities, and resources -- making WhatsApp both a critical tool for migrants' settlement and integration, as well as an invaluable source of data through which we can better understand migrant experiences. This thesis explores the dynamics of public WhatsApp groups used by Venezuelan migrants to Colombia, and what they can tell us about how migrants use and share information. We center our research on information spread and trust, especially as they intersect with concentration and geographic heterogeneity within groups. We analyze messages and memberships broadly, then explore interaction within groups, fake news and economic scams, and effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Our results have a range of policy implications, from reflections on Colombia's decision to shut its borders amidst the coronavirus pandemic, to understandings of how aid organizations can effectively share information over social media channels.
- Pub Date:
- May 2020
- Computer Science - Social and Information Networks;
- Statistics - Applications