WeChatting American Politics: Misinformation, Polarization, and Immigrant Chinese Media

Zhang, C.

As the discussion surrounding misinformation and polarization takes center stage, one space that has been largely overlooked is the Chinese media sphere within the United States, where questionable content has garnered a loyal following among Chinese-speaking immigrants. While headlines with false claims such as “Illegal immigrant started wildfire in Sonoma County” mirror types of misinformation found in American, English-language media, what’s especially worrisome in information ecosystems like these is their central influence on the first-generation immigrant experience and integration with US society. Yet, they exist very much as unknown, parallel universes for most researchers, journalists, and media watchers. With the rise of conservatism among first-generation Chinese immigrants, one of the fastest growing populations in the United States, this media space—led by mobile platform WeChat—offers key clues to how political information and misinformation are constructed for and distributed among the emerging political constituency.

This report sheds light on the nature of misinformation and political polarization in the WeChat news sphere. The conclusions drawn from this preliminary investigation into WeChat mirror more general challenges with misinformation and polarization in the digital news ecosystem, but also highlight the specificity of the information problem for the immigrant population.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Tow Center for Digital Journalism
Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University
Tow Center for Digital Journalism Publications
Published Here
May 15, 2018