How WeChat Spreads Rumors, Reaffirms Bias, and Helped Elect Trump - 2017-04-20
As debates raged over the role that fake news shared on social networks played in Trump's election, WeChat barely registered in the conversation. Instead, concern mostly centered around social networks with large American audiences, especially Facebook. But CVA is evidence that fake news isn't solely a Facebook problem. "When you look at the whole spectrum of mis- and disinformation…the scale and the complexity of the problem is clear," says Claire Wardle, a fake news expert at First Draft News. "In order to start thinking about ways to solve information pollution crisis…we need to understand the different types of misinformation…and the platforms upon which it is being disseminated."
With social media activity increasingly moving to private communities on WeChat, Telegram, Signal, and WhatsApp, where information is harder to track and verify, understanding how news — and trust — flows on these closed networks is more important than ever.
Though CVA's influence — or even that of WeChat, central to its rise — was minuscule on its own, and its tactics basic (especially in comparison to the more sophisticated fake news sites running out of Macedonia, bots that artificially amplified popularity, and potential Russian collusion in the election), CVA provides an important and overlooked lessons: The fight to sway public opinion in an election does not necessarily require high tech. It just requires an understanding of how to reach the right audiences, on the right platforms, with tailored and timely messages.