The country’s historically low Internet penetration has begun to break, partly, thanks to telephone companies offering cheap, unlimited access to Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp, but not to other applications or websites, in order to attract more customers. According to the records of the SIT, in Guatemala there are more cell phones than inhabitants, the increase being mainly due to families who want to maintain contact with their migrants in the United States. Long-distance communication costs have been reduced, but limits to accessing information that circulates outside of these social media persist, as they come at an extra cost for the user.
According to the study Digital in 2018 in Central America, Facebook is the most used social network with 7.2 million people owning a Facebook account, equalling 42 percent of the population. Of these, 94 percent logged in through a cell phone. By 2017 other social media such as Instagram were used by less than 10 percent of the population.
This new offer from telephone companies, which includes more access to Internet but limited to the content available on the Facebook and Whatsapp apps, is as beneficial as potentially dangerous. On the one hand, it allows serious and professional media to get their message to a larger number of people who previously did not have access to information. On the other hand, the media needs that users access their website to generate more views so they can sell advertising spots to generate income, but this implies an extra cost for the users that is not included in the packages offered by telephone companies. If the complete information still resides on the news media websites, the audience will get to know only the headlines published on social network. In the absence of complete and proven information, Facebook and Whatsapp become a platform where misinformation has a large area to flourish.