Research on Information Disorder in Asia

By Masato Kajimoto

There is nothing new about fabricated facts, malicious disinformation, attacks on journalists and other efforts to manipulate the information space and influence public opinion in Asia.

Yet, while concerns over “fake news” have prompted rigorous investigations in the United States and Europe over the past eighteen months, little is known about the way mis- and disinformation is spread in many Asian countries, where economic and digital developments — especially smartphones — have transformed people’s patterns of news consumption and distribution.

To fill this gap, the Journalism and Media Studies Centre (JMSC) at the University of Hong Kong has launched a series of short research articles that overview what is known about the scale and impact of disinformation in different Asian countries. The articles were produced in collaboration with media researchers and journalists in the region.

In this project, the researchers aim to map the landscape of each country’s own problems with information disorder. The articles aspire to answer several questions: On which platforms do falsehoods spread? Who are the actors? What motivates them? Why do specific topics and individuals become objects of mis- and disinformation? What is the scale and impact of false or misleading news?

Of course, Asia is made up of a diversity of countries. We speak different languages, have different cultures and religious beliefs and live under different political systems. Naturally, the matters at the heart of misinformation ecosystem in each country vary considerably.

Additionally, many intertwined factors — culture, history, politics, economy, education, digital adoption, technology trends, media law, and press systems — affect each country’s situation. As such, the goal is not to encompass all such aspects, but rather to highlight salient characteristics that will inform academics, media professionals, technology companies, NGOs and government of critical issues and their impact on the community.

The overview reports could also inform the broader global discussion and research on misinformation already in progress. In some areas, Asian countries lead the world in technology use. Mobile-only internet usage, heavy reliance on chat apps, the popularity of emojis and messaging app stickers — these are some of the phenomena that were observed in the Asia-Pacific region years before they caught on internationally.

To start, the JMSC has published articles on Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines. We will add others, including South Korea and Singapore, soon. Pacific nations such as Australia and New Zealand are also planned to be included.


The research report is published by the Journalism & Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong with the support of Google News Lab.