How Whatsapp uses the Fogg Model to fight against fake news

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Few months back there was an update in Whatsapp which has some key new & surprising features like ‘Limiting the number of people selection while forwarding’ and ‘showing tag of “Fw” in forwarded messages’ etc. These were basically focused on reducing the spread of rumors and fake news. Some of us might have also felt an irritating experience due to these in festival season while sending wish messages to our friends and relatives, but there is no doubt that these updates have helped in meeting the core goals in fighting against the Fake news spread. 

Being UX Designer & Researcher, one question should always come to your mind that how this solution is helpful? On which basis this has been thought and implemented. Well, let’s try to decode this. Sending a message to some friends/relative/groups in one go is also a behavior and If that message contains any news or facts which are Fake and can help in spreading rumors then this behavior needs to be controlled.  

When it comes to behaviors and changing habits, a great Behavior Scientist & Author B.J. Fogg has the answer. Fogg was the first scientist to articulate the concept of "captology", or the study of how computers can be used to persuade people to change their attitudes or behaviors. Fogg has presented the Fogg Behavior Grid, which describes the 15 ways to change the behavior. 

Fogg Behavior Grid

Fogg Behavior Grid

To reduce the bahvior of spreading Fake News and Rumors using Whatsapp can be achived using ‘Gray Path Behaviors’. Lets look in to this. 

Gray Path Behavior

If you want someone to reduce a behavior for the long term, you are seeking a Gray Path Behavior.

Examples include:
  • Health: Eat less often at restaurants.
  • Environment: Use less water when showering from now on.
  • Commerce: Stock up on fewer products to reduce waste.

In a typical case, the behavior being reduced is not desirable, but stopping the behavior completely may not be practical or possible. That’s when Gray Path is the appropriate target behavior. To achieve a Gray Path Behavior, all successful interventions work by altering at least one element from the Fogg Behavior Model:

  • Remove the trigger that leads to the undesirable behavior
  • Reduce ability to perform the behavior (make it harder to do)
  • Replace motivation for doing the behavior with de-motivators:  pain, fear, or social rejection

Fogg Behavior Grid Gray Path Model


Gray Path Behavior Model in Whatsapp

Whatsapp has tried to make forwarding of messages to multiple recipients harder by giving a limit of recipients to 5. This is the ‘Reducing the Ability’ which leads to reducing the probability of behavior to be successful. Also, tag of ‘Fw’ in the message reduces the credibility of facts and news. It may also impact negatively in making personality of Sender in Recipient’s eyes, resulting decreasing in motivation as well. 

Fogg Behavior Model is a great tool in making & breaking behaviors & habits. Having said that it should be tactfully & carefully used. 




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Design Lead UX Researcher


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