Wu Qian can’t take her eyes off her phone. She tirelessly checks a dozen Chinese-language Telegram chat rooms, where thousands of conservative Chinese-Americans discuss news, politics – and sometimes QAnon conspiracies.
The 33-year-old Australian researcher, who asked that her real named not be used for this article, tiptoes her way through these far-right Chinese-American networks as an “undercover” infiltrator in order to understand how disinformation flows through the diaspora.
“I see similar disinformation every single day,” says Ms Wu. “I am fed up with it and curious to check out the origin.”
She first noticed a surge of pandemic-related fake news in the overseas Chinese diaspora last summer as coronavirus swept the globe.
To combat the spread of misinformation, she organised a group of hundreds of volunteer fact-checkers to debunk these fake stories, but it didn’t take long for them to be overwhelmed by a new flood of misinformation about the US presidential election.