Complex Perceptions of Social Media Misinformation in China

To appear at CHI 2020

  01 Dec 2019


The social media environment in China has become increasingly complex over the past decade, due in part to new factors and players within the ecosystem including social media services, fact-checkers, censorship policies, and astroturfing. As social media have become the dominant sources for information and news, issues relating to mis- and dis-information have exacerbated. Interviews with 44 Chinese WeChat users were conducted to understand how individuals perceive misinformation and how it impacts their news consumption practices. Although most participants claimed that their opinions would not be easily swayed by astroturfers, many admitted that they could not effectively identify astroturfers or distinguish astroturfers from ordinary Internet users. Their inability to make sense of comments found online lead many participants to hold pro-censorship attitudes. Due to the complex nature of censorship in China and users lack of understanding about censorship, users had varied opinions about its influence on the credibility of online information sources. Overall, this work exposes the diverse attitudes and coping strategies that Chinese users employ in complex social media environments.