Header

UZH-Logo

Maintenance Infos

Is citizen journalism better than professional journalism for fact-checking rumours in China? How Weibo users verified information following the 2015 Tianjin blasts


Zeng, Jing; Burgess, Jean; Bruns, Axel (2019). Is citizen journalism better than professional journalism for fact-checking rumours in China? How Weibo users verified information following the 2015 Tianjin blasts. Global Media and China, 4(1):13-35.

Abstract

This article investigates how citizens contribute to rumour verification on social media in China, drawing on a case study of Weibo communication about the 2015 Tianjin blasts. Three aspects of citizen engagement in verifying rumours via Weibo are examined: (1) how they directly debunked rumours related to the blasts, (2) how they verified official rumour messages and (3) how they used Weibo’s community verification function to collectively identify and fact-check rumours. The article argues that in carrying out such activities, ordinary Weibo users were engaging in practices of citizen journalism. Findings from our analysis suggest that even though citizen journalists’ direct engagement in publishing debunking messages was not as visible as that of the police and mainstream media, self-organised grassroots rumour-debunking practices demonstrate great potential. In terms of both the reposts and the positive comments they received, rumour-debunking posts from non-official actors appear to have been given more credibility than those from their official counterparts. In contrast, the official narratives about the Tianjin blasts were challenged, and the credibility of the official rumour-debunking messages was commonly questioned. Nevertheless, this article also shows that Weibo’s community verification system had limited effects in facilitating how Weibo users could collaboratively fact-check potentially false information.

Abstract

This article investigates how citizens contribute to rumour verification on social media in China, drawing on a case study of Weibo communication about the 2015 Tianjin blasts. Three aspects of citizen engagement in verifying rumours via Weibo are examined: (1) how they directly debunked rumours related to the blasts, (2) how they verified official rumour messages and (3) how they used Weibo’s community verification function to collectively identify and fact-check rumours. The article argues that in carrying out such activities, ordinary Weibo users were engaging in practices of citizen journalism. Findings from our analysis suggest that even though citizen journalists’ direct engagement in publishing debunking messages was not as visible as that of the police and mainstream media, self-organised grassroots rumour-debunking practices demonstrate great potential. In terms of both the reposts and the positive comments they received, rumour-debunking posts from non-official actors appear to have been given more credibility than those from their official counterparts. In contrast, the official narratives about the Tianjin blasts were challenged, and the credibility of the official rumour-debunking messages was commonly questioned. Nevertheless, this article also shows that Weibo’s community verification system had limited effects in facilitating how Weibo users could collaboratively fact-check potentially false information.

Statistics

Citations

Dimensions.ai Metrics

Altmetrics

Downloads

9 downloads since deposited on 08 May 2019
9 downloads since 12 months
Detailed statistics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:700 Arts
Language:English
Date:1 March 2019
Deposited On:08 May 2019 12:11
Last Modified:09 May 2019 14:54
Publisher:Sage Publications Ltd.
ISSN:2059-4372
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/2059436419834124

Download

Download PDF  'Is citizen journalism better than professional journalism for fact-checking rumours in China? How Weibo users verified information following the 2015 Tianjin blasts'.
Preview
Content: Published Version
Filetype: PDF
Size: 1MB
View at publisher
Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)