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More Mobile Users Are Turning to Facebook’s WhatsApp for Breaking News

June 23, 2017, 4:47 PM UTC

It’s hardly breaking news that many headline junkies get their news from Twitter or Facebook of some other social network. What may raise some eyebrows is that more consumers are turning to messaging apps—in particular, WhatsApp—as a news source, according to a new Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and Oxford University.

Overall, 23% of respondents said they now find or share news using one or more messaging applications. A healthy 15% of the aggregate total cited WhatsApp as a tool of choice in this regard, although percentages vary widely by geography. More than half of the respondents in Malaysia 51% said they have used the app for news in a given period. Just 3% of U.S.-based respondents said the same.

Other chat apps are popular in certain regions: Viber is big in southern and eastern Europe, for example. Chinese messaging giant WeChat and Japanese chat provider Line are often used in Asian countries.

Related: Survey Has Good News, Bad News for Media Companies

The results are based on responses of 71,805 people surveyed by WeGov across 36 countries.

Based on the study, people in countries where there is potential social stigma—or even danger—in posting or commenting on controversial stories on Twitter (TWTR) or Facebook (FB) may feel safer sharing on WhatsApp, where they can limit access to their posts to select people

According to the report:

Many of these apps also offer encryption, which is particularly relevant for communication in markets where it can be dangerous to share politically sensitive information. This is true in Hong Kong where WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger are popular and in Turkey where a quarter of our sample (25%) share news via WhatsApp.

Since Facebook bought WhatsApp three years ago for $19 billion, this news may exacerbate concerns about Facebook’s huge power in news distribution.

For the first time since this survey kicked off six years ago, researchers asked about the use of connected home devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home for news consumption. This is a new metric because Amazon (AMZN) started shipping the product two years ago, and its availability outside the U.S. is still limited. Some 4% of U.S. respondents have such a device now and half of those said they have used it to check on news.

Related: Siri Can Now Read and Send Your WhatsApp Messages

As report author and Reuters Institute research associate Nic Newman pointed out, several news organizations, including CNN and the BBC, have produced audio applications—such as news summaries and weather forecasts—for those devices.

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As other services—including fact checking—come online, these home devices could well compete with smartphones and broadcast radio as news sources going forward. That could also mean a bigger role for Amazon in news distribution. Google, of course, is already a force due to its ubiquitous Internet search and news aggregation services.