Malhotra, P. & Pearce, K.E. (2022). Facing Falsehoods: Strategies for Polite Misinformation Correction. International Journal for Communication, 16, 22.

Abstract: Misinformation is a serious problem. One gap in misinformation correction research is understanding the role of relational concerns, particularly adherence to politeness norms within relationships. Combining insights from the politeness literature with the misinformation correction strategies scholarship, through an interview study (N = 26) of Indian young adults, we examined how they make sense of their correction experiences with older relatives who share misinformation on WhatsApp. We found that localized relational norms associated with politeness are underscored in these accounts as participants discussed employing strategies that decreased the sense of direct interaction to avoid being viewed as disrespectful and questioning the competency of higher status elders. These included using a credible alternative explanation, broad spectrum immunizing, and an emergent strategy of addressing the broader topic, without mentioning the misinformation incident. Participants’ accounts reflected that these more indirect approaches were aimed toward achieving goals of both correction and adherence to politeness norms.

Pearce, K. E., & Malhotra, P. (2022). Inaccuracies and Izzat: Channel Affordances for the Consideration of Face in Misinformation Correction. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication27(2), zmac004.

Abstract: The correction of misinformation is an important scholarly and practical endeavor. Understanding the correction process requires drawing on theorizing from a multitude of perspectives. This interview study of (N = 26) Indian young adults in Delhi uses an affordances perspective in combination with face-negotiation theory to understand how face considerations during a misinformation correction are tied to different social and mobile media affordances that influence channel selection. While older family members share falsehoods on WhatsApp group chats, corrections rarely occur there. Instead, perceived synchronicity, bandwidth, and publicness affordances of different channels that support politeness and face concerns influence channel choice for correction. Thus, this study not only provides an interesting context for understanding these affordances, but also adds to the literature on misinformation correction by highlighting the role of social and contextual factors, and demonstrates the utility of CMC and interpersonal communication theory in understanding misinformation correction.

Malhotra, P., Scharp, K., & Thomas, L. (2021). The meaning of misinformation and those who correct it: An extension of relational dialectics theory. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Abstract: What misinformation means and what it means to be someone who corrects it is socially contested, especially in interpersonal contexts where politeness expectations complicate correction. Given this flux in meaning, we analyze posts about misinformation correction in interpersonal contexts from the AmItheAsshole subreddit through a relational dialectics theory (RDT) lens. Findings revealed that discourses of misinformation as harmful and as innocuous and potentially helpful constituted the meaning of misinformation, while discourses of misinformation correctors as inconsiderate and as communal guardians constituted the meaning of misinformation correctors. The latter meaning was dependent on the meaning of misinformation and the adjacent ideology of politeness. Thus, we extend RDT by elucidating how the meaning of a semantic object is predicated on a web of larger intertextual meaning.

Malhotra, P. (2020). A Relationship-Centered and Culturally Informed Approach to Studying Misinformation on COVID-19. Social Media+ Society, 6(3), 2K: COVID-19 and the Media Issue.

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Abstract: The panic and anxiety that accompanies a global pandemic is only exacerbated by the spread of misinformation. For COVID-19, in many parts of the world, such misinformation is circulating through globally popular mobile instant messaging services (MIMS) like WhatsApp and Telegram. Compared to more public social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, these services offer private, intimate, and often encrypted spaces for users to chat with family members and friends, making it difficult for the platform to moderate misinformation on them. Thus, there is an enhanced onus on users of MIMS to curb misinformation by correcting their family and friends within these spaces. Research on understanding how such relational correction occurs in different parts of the globe will need to attend to how the nature of these interpersonal relationships and the cultural dynamics that influence them shape the correction process. Thus, as people increasingly use MIMS to connect with close relations to make sense of this global crisis, studying the issue of misinformation on these services requires us to adopt a relationship-centered and culturally informed approach.

Malhotra, P., & Ling, R. (2020). Agency Within Contextual Constraints: Mobile Phone Use Among Female Live-Out Domestic Workers in Delhi. Information Technologies & International Development16, 15.

Abstract: This study explores how access to the mobile phone affects the lives of female live-out (as opposed to live-in) domestic workers in Delhi. Through interviews with 102 workers, we find that the mobile phone helps to enhance their agency in determining their daily schedule, the amount of work they take on, and the public spaces they can safely occupy. It also engenders certain communication obligations at home and work, reinforcing the inequalities they face due to their marginalized position at the intersection of gender and social class. We draw upon contextually sensitive conceptualizations of agency to explain this phenomenon. In doing so, we argue that the device enhances the women’s capacity to act within the context of the social, cultural, and economic forces within which they are embedded. Further, we discuss the relationship between different types of access to technology and such conceptualizations of agency, highlighting its dynamic and complex nature. Thus, we move beyond dichotomies such as empowerment/disempowerment and access/no access to make a nuanced contribution to the literature on gender, mobile communication, and development.