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March 10 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EDT

Speaker: Jeniffer Pan

Date:  Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm

Location: Northeastern University, 177 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115, 11th Floor


Please join us on Tuesday, March 10th at 12–1pm at 177 Huntington Ave (11th floor) for an exciting talk from NULab visiting speaker, Jennifer Pan (Stanford University): “You Won’t Believe How the Chinese Government Uses Clickbait!”


There is a growing consensus that political propaganda in the age of mass media worked, shaping attitudes and behaviors in favor of governments by suppressing alternative media sources and dominating public attention. What happens to political propaganda in the age of digital media? In the digital context, political actors do not automatically dominate systems of information transmission even when they successfully deploy online censorship. Online censorship can reshape the contours of what information is available on social media, but censorship does not decrease the overall volume of information. The constraints and opportunities provided by modern social media platforms, which are generally built on an ad-revenue model and therefore aim to maximize clicks, are transforming the ways which governments engage in propaganda online. In this paper, we use ethnographic fieldwork to show how producers of propaganda in China face incentives to capture clicks. We then collect and analyze posts made by over 200 Chinese city-government WeChat accounts to show how “clickbait”—the process of providing just enough information in a headline so as to grab the reader’s attention by creating an information gap—features prominently in governments’ propaganda strategies. While governments’ use of clickbait is associated with more views, it does not predict more positive assessments of content.

This paper is co-authored with Yingdan Lu, a PhD student in Communication at Stanford.


About the Speaker

Jennifer Pan is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Stanford University. Her research explores the politics of authoritarian regimes in the digital age, including censorship, responsiveness, and redistribution with large-scale data from digital media and media platforms. Pan’s work has appeared in publications such as the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Politics, and Science.



March 10
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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177 Huntington Ave, 11th Floor
177 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115 United States
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