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Chinese American activists fight uphill battle against disinformation

A woman who infiltrated the far right networks of Chinese immigrants on social media is revealing what she learned to the BBC.

Wu Qian (not her real name) says she witnesses how quickly an organized disinformation campaign can reach the Chinese diaspora.

She’s seen first hand false claims of voter fraud and misinformation about the pandemic.

“I see similar disinformation every single day,” says Wu. “I am fed up with it and curious to check out the origin. “They are very politically active, and often act collectively.”

Her findings are similar to what’s been reported in other media.

According to the Prism Report, those with limited English-speaking ability have fewer media options and may be more prone to the proliferation of fake news in Chinese language media. Misinformation in such Chinese social media apps such as WeChat and WhatsApp goes unchallenged, unlike what we see on Facebook and Twitter which have both banned former President Trump.

“WeChat is a place where misinformation flows heavily,”  Dr. Janelle Wong, professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Maryland said.

Alex Tom, the executive director of the Center for Empowered Politics Education Fund in California, says his group has tried to counter with its own counter campaign on WeChat, a popular Chinese social media app.

“It’s still an uphill battle,” Tom said. “But I think these are the kind of experiments that are needed,” he told Foreign Policy.

Wu herself organized hundreds of fact checkers to correct the fake news, but says they were overwhelmed by a new flood of untruths.

Some Chinese immigrants who come to the United States from China and Taiwan with a strong anti-communist bent have been bolstered by the strong anti-China stance of former President Trump and his supporters. They’ve forged alliances with conservatives and have become increasingly engaged politically.

Wang says she’s seen fake reports that undocumented immigrants purposely set the wildfires that devastated Sonoma County in California and that Antifa had organized mass riots to overthrow the U.S. government.

“Once you are exposed to the misinformation network, it’s hard to get out,” Wu tells the BBC.

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