We Chat’s information problem highlights the challenge of immigrant political integration, where difference in values and interests and a distinct communication system compound the distribution and consumption of misinformation.
More than technological solutions, combating misinformation for immigrant audiences requires engaging with and ultimately bridging their experiences and perspectives.
In multiethnic America, overlooking non-English-speaking media in the discussion of misinformation means missing an opportunity to understand how political discourse is constructed for a significant segment of the political constituents, and to build media narratives that are sensitive and inclusive.
The added impetus for studying ethnic Chinese media stems from a rise in conservatism among first-generation Chinese.
Instead, this report underscores the rise of conservatism as a significant shift in Chinese-American politics that suggests heightened polarization.
Polarization and misinformation manifest as two entangled dimensions: misinformation can drive polarization, and polarization creates ripe opportunities for the generation and spread of misinformation.
Their presence begs the question of what kind of misinformation exists in this space, as well as how it is generated and distributed.Chat groups, especially large ones where members are acquaintances or complete strangers connected by a common affiliation, are abundant and central in information dissemination.At a time when mobile messaging apps are increasingly utilized for news, We Chat highlights the significance of socially driven, organically spread information mostly unaffected by algorithms and technological manipulation.This divergence in issue priorities—without counteracting narratives—leaves room for misinformation to fester around dominant topics on We Chat.Political discourse on We Chat can be described as asymmetrically polarized, with the right leading in volume, reach, and skewed issue agenda.What follows is a preliminary assessment of this Chinese-language platform and manifestations of its information problem.The conclusions drawn mirror general challenges with misinformation and polarization in the digital news ecosystem, but also highlight the specificity of the information problem for the immigrant population.Emotionally stirring, sensational stories become amplified through the replication and embellishment of a long tail of We Chat outlets, which creates repetition and familiarity.Misinformation inside We Chat takes on a pronounced local expression.We Chat has a highly specific issue agenda in its coverage.Compared to English-speaking media and immigrant Chinese media, affirmative action/census data disaggregation and unauthorized immigration are the disproportionate focus of We Chat content, while jobs, the economy, and healthcare received little attention during the period of study.Both conservative and liberal discourses on We Chat centered around race relations and the ambivalent role of Chinese Americans.But it was the conservative narrative, invoking zero-sum calculations and the neglect of Chinese Americans by liberals, that seems to resonate more widely.This report sheds light on the nature of misinformation and political polarization in the We Chat news sphere.