Stories

WeChat's fake news problem hits millions of Chinese-Americans

WeChat app icon
The WeChat app icon on a mobile device. Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A new report from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism examines the spread of fake news and misinformation among Chinese-American immigrant users of WeChat, Tencent's communication platform that is used by nearly 900 million people globally, including Chinese overseas.

Why it matters: Western policymakers grappling with the growing global influence of the PRC and the Chinese Communist Party have little ability to influence the content flowing through WeChat.

Among the report's findings:

  • WeChat content is disproportionally focused on affirmative action/census data disaggregation and unauthorized immigration over other topics like jobs, economy and health care.
  • "Local stories and policies especially fall prey to distorted information, when lack of local news coverage on issues of particular interest to immigrant Chinese leaves a vacuum for misinformation to flourish."
  • One example of a "fake news" headline on a platform is: “Kill a Chinese, get a green card.”
  • Read the full report.

My thought bubble: I am in several groups of mostly Chinese-American immigrants and I regularly see some crazy stuff getting posted. Another issue is that many consumers have weak English skills and so only read Chinese-language media.