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Friend Network as Gatekeeper: A Study of WeChat Users' Consumption of Friend-Curated Contents

by   Quan Li, et al.

Social media enables users to publish, disseminate, and access information easily. The downside is that it has fewer gatekeepers of what content is allowed to enter public circulation than the traditional media. In this paper, we present preliminary empirical findings from WeChat, a popular messaging app of the Chinese, indicating that social media users leverage their friend networks collectively as latent, dynamic gatekeepers for content consumption. Taking a mixed-methods approach, we analyze over seven million users' information consumption behaviors on WeChat and conduct an online survey of 216 users. Both quantitative and qualitative evidence suggests that friend network indeed acts as a gatekeeper in social media. Shifting from what should be produced that gatekeepers used to decide, friend network helps separate the worthy from the unworthy for individual information consumption, and its structure and dynamics that play an important role in gatekeeping may inspire the future design of socio-technical systems.


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