A vital connection for the Chinese diaspora, the app has also become a global conduit of Chinese state propaganda, surveillance and intimidation. The United States has proposed banning it.
Just after the 2016 presidential election in the United States, Joanne Li realized the app that connected her to fellow Chinese immigrants had disconnected her from reality.
Everything she saw on the Chinese app, WeChat, indicated Donald J. Trump was an admired leader and impressive businessman. She believed it was the unquestioned consensus on the newly elected American president. “But then I started talking to some foreigners about him, non-Chinese,” she said. “I was totally confused.”
She began to read more widely, and Ms. Li, who lived in Toronto at the time, increasingly found WeChat filled with gossip, conspiracy theories and outright lies. One article claimed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada planned to legalize hard drugs. Another rumor purported that Canada had begun selling marijuana in grocery stores. A post from a news account in Shanghai warned Chinese people to take care lest they accidentally bring the drug back from Canada and get arrested.
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