Freedom In The Media and Life

What is the role of media in democratic society?

Can freedom exist without truth?

Finally, without truth, there cannot be freedom or justice.

Beijing’s Global Media Influence Report 2022 | Freedom House

Beijing’s Global Media Influence: Recommendations 2022 | Freedom House

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Please taken the time to read the full published  Beijing’s Global Media Influence Report 2022  paper below on htis www.inltv.co.uk webpage

 Setting the future of digital and social media marketing research: Perspectives and research propositions - ScienceDirect

Please taken the time to read the full published  Setting the future of digital and social media marketing research: Perspectives and research propositions paper below on htis www.inltv.co.uk webpage

Highlights

Huge potential for marketers that implement AI, VR technologies

Customer engagement behaviors and customer journeys enhanced via SMM.

Importance of ethical practice and explainability in use of AI and ML.

Trust is positively impacted via the cultivation of customer engagement.

eWOM overload can be mitigated by applying new tools and mechanisms.

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What are the 7 basic functions of mass media?
The Media and its Function
Information. Sending and sharing of information is the major function of media. ...
Education. Media provides education and information. ...
Entertainment. The other important function of media is the entertainment. ...
Persuasion. ...
Surveillance. ...
Interpretation. ...
Linkage. ...
Socialization.
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The Media and its Function - Medium
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  Setting the future of digital and social media marketing research: Perspectives and research propositions - ScienceDirect

Opinion Paper

Setting the future of digital and social media marketing research: Perspectives and research propositions

Proposition: Augmented Reality will be as prevalent in the marketing of the future as the Internet is today.

1) Future research is needed on how companies articulate their objectives (e.g. brand building, attracting advocates etc).
2) Future research should investigate the optimum portfolio of social media channels.
3) A limited number of studies investigate the relationships between social media marketing agencies and clients. What are the characteristics of effective SM marketing-agency -client relationships?
4) Future research should investigate the roles, power, and responsibilities of big tech gatekeepers (Google, Amazon…), regulatory institutions, brands and other human and non-human stakeholders of the digital eco-system.

1) More studies are needed on consumer engagement. How demographic characteristics of consumers influence engagement with SMM?
2) More studies are needed on advertising. Future research is advised to investigate on how the type of advertising influences perceived value; effect of location-based advertising on buying decision; how advertising in app influences willingness of the users to click, increase attention and develop positive attitude
3) More studies are needed on the effect of mobile marketing on brand communication (does it increase brand awareness, brand attitude, customer satisfaction, customer retention, positive eWOM)

Since the role of Augmented Reality goes far beyond communicative aspects, dealing with it is very complex. Managers need to better understand the unique aspects of consumer behavior, specific goals, KPIs, technological challenges and so on. Building on this, they need supporting tools to develop Augmented Reality strategies. As scientists and educators it is our duty to support managers with insights and to include relevant topics in our curricula. This includes relevant concepts (e.g. theories and strategies), tools (e.g. 3D modelling), boundary conditions (e.g. legal and ethical aspects) and technological fundamentals (e.g. tracking or mapping).

Proposition: The management of Augmented Reality is highly complex. Therefore, companies must develop specific skills and scholars should support this.

3.8.7. Conclusion

Augmented Reality is still in its infancy, but most probably about to experience a breakthrough. As discussed in this section, Augmented Reality Marketing is much more than just a communicative gimmick, it might become a new paradigm in management research and practice. However, surprisingly little research has been conducted in this field. I hope that this section inspires scholars from a range of disciplines to research Augmented Reality and how it can positively impact marketing, businesses, consumers, and societies as a whole.

3.9. Contribution 9 - responsible artificial intelligence (AI) perspective on social media marketing - Yichuan Wang

Social media marketing is in transition as AI and analytics have the potential to liberate the power of social media data and optimize the customer experience and journey. Widespread access to consumer-generated information on social media, along with appropriate use of AI, have brought positive impacts to individuals, organisations, industries and society (Cohen, 2018). However, the use of AI in social media environments raises ethical concerns and carries the risk of attracting consumers’ distrust. A recent finding reported by Luo et al. (2019) indicates that AI chatbot identity disclosed before conversations with consumers significantly reduces the likelihood of purchase. Therefore, if the ethical dilemmas are not addressed when implementing AI for marketing purposes, the result may be a loss of credibility for products, while the company’s reputation in the marketplace may suffer. In the following sections I introduce some responsible AI initiatives for social media marketing, and then suggest future directions by proposing possible research questions.

3.9.1. Responsible AI-driven social media marketing

 
Author links open overlay panelYogesh K. Dwivedi aHeikki Karjaluoto hJennifer Rowley oJari Salo p

 

UNDER THE RADAR

 What's More Important: Freedom, Justice, Happiness, Truth? | Issue 111

 
What are the 3 roles of media?
 
The media is best defined by the roles they play in society. They educate, inform and entertain through news, features and analysis in the press
 
 
 
What are the 4 functions of media?
 
Mass media has four functions: surveillance, correlation, cultural transmission, and entertainment.10 Nov 2022
 
https://study.com › learn › lesson
 
 
Introduction to the Power of Media
 
It serves as a mirror of the world, reflecting societal norms, values, and changes. From newspapers to social media platforms, media has the power to shape public opinion, influence decisions, and bring about social change.26 Aug 2023
 
 
 
 
What is the best quote about the freedom of the press?
 
 
Freedom of the press is an essential right in the United States and a core principle of democracy. Protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a free press helps maintain the balance of power in government.16 Feb 20
 
https://www.loc.gov › collections
 

How do we get freedom in life?
 
 
 Why is freedom an important value?
Individual freedom is important because it gives you the privilege to express your thoughts and speak your mind. Freedom gives you the opportunity to take risks, make mistakes, learn from them, and improve your skills. Freedom leads to increased productivity, creativity, and high quality of life.11 Feb 2023
 
Functions of Mass Media 
 
What is the oldest form of media?
Print Media
INL News Corporation Limited_LatestUncensoredNews

The oldest media forms are newspapers, magazines, journals, newsletters, and other printed material. These publications are collectively known as the print media.

https://www.sparknotes.com › sectio...
The Media: Types of Media | SparkNotes
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What are the 5 characteristics of media?
Characteristics of different types of media
1.Available to a broad audience.
2. Suitable if you want to communicate local information.
3. Has an entertainment function but is 
4. also a venue for serious discussions.
 
What are the 5 most essential functions of media?
Key Takeaways

The mass media serves:
 information, 
interpretation,
 instructive, 
bonding, and 
diversion functions.
 
 
 
What is the three impact of media in society?
This influence can be negative or positive. The negative effects of mass media on society can lead people towards poverty, crime, nudity, violence, bad mental and physical health disorders and others as such severe outcomes.25 Sept 2019

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How Mass Media Influence Our Society - Ahmedabad - NIMCJ
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What does freedom mean to you in 15 words?
The real meaning of freedom is the state of independence where one can do whatever one likes without any restriction by anyone. Moreover, freedom is defined as the state of mind where we have the right and are free to do what we can think of. The main emphasis of freedom is we need to feel freedom from within.

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Freedom Essay for Students in English - Vedantu
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What are the three basic freedoms to which every person is entitled?
Every human being has the right to life, liberty and the security of his person. Right to life, liberty and personal security. Article II. All persons are equal before the law and have the rights and duties established in this Declaration, without distinction as to race, sex, language, creed or any other factor.

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American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man
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Is freedom an ethical principle?
The concept of freedom is most often invoked in ethical literature, by those who hold that moral responsibility cannot be imputed to any agent unless she is conceived as free.

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Concepts of freedom: ethical, epistemological, ontological
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How many types of freedom are there?

These are the different dimensions: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Time, Geographic, Cultural, Spiritual and Economic.18 May 2023

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What are the characteristics of freedom?

Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, and change as one wants without hindrance or restraint. Freedom is often associated with liberty and autonomy in the sense of "giving oneself one's own laws". In one definition, something is "free" if it can change and is not constrained in its present state.

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Freedom - Wikipedia
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What is the symbol for first principles?

We denote derivatives as dydx\(, which represents its very definition. This is called as First Principle in Calculus. The derivative can also be represented as f(x) as either f′(x) or y′. This is also known as the first derivative of the function.4 May 2023

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First Principles of Derivatives: Proof with Examples - Testbook
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What is a famous quote about principles?
He who merely knows right principles is not equal to him who loves them. The principles we live by, in business and in social life, are the most important part of happiness. We need to be careful, upon achieving happiness, not to lose the virtues which have produced it.

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Principles - Quotes - Forbes
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How do you argue first principles?

Simply speaking, reasoning by first principles requires you to understand fundamental truths about a thing and then build up your argument from there. This is why reasoning by first principles is more difficult than reasoning by analogy and requires much more mental energy to think through.23 Feb 2023

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First Principles Thinking: Concepts & Examples - Data Analytics
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What are the four 4 types of media?

Media can be classified into four types:
Print Media (Newspapers, Magazines)
Broadcast Media (TV, Radio)
Outdoor or Out of Home (OOH) Media.
Internet.
23 Oct 2017

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Types of Media, Print, Broadcast, Outdoor, Internet - BBA|mantra
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Freedom House
freedomhouse.org
Media Freedom: A Downward Spiral
The essay analyzes how authoritarians and propagandists manipulate digital media to undermine democracy, and proposes a new partnership between tech companies ...
Questions related to your search
What is the principle of media freedom?
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the fundamental principle that communication and expression through various media, including printed and electronic media, especially published materials, should be considered a right to be exercised freely.

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Freedom of the press - Wikipedia
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What is the press freedom in a democracy?
Why does press freedom matter?
What is the meaning of freedom of the press?
freedom of the press. : the right to publish and disseminate information, thoughts, and opinions without restraint or censorship as guaranteed under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.16 Aug 2023

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Freedom of the press Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster
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What is the first principle of freedom?
Foundation of American freedom and liberty

The rule of law is a First Principle that mandates that the law governs everyone. The First Principle of unalienable rights recognizes that everyone is naturally endowed by their Creator with certain rights.
http://www.americassurvivalguide.com › ...
America's First Principles - America's Survival Guide
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What is the role of media in democratic society?
First, it ensures that citizens make responsible, informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance or misinformation. Second, information serves a “checking function” by ensuring that elected representatives uphold their oaths of office and carry out the wishes of those who elected them.

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200sbc - The Role of Media in Democracy: A Strategic Approach
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Is freedom of the press a good thing?
Freedom of the press is an essential right in the United States and a core principle of democracy. Protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a free press helps maintain the balance of power in government.16 Feb 2021

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Why freedom of the press is important - U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Italy
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Why freedom is important?
Freedom Is a Basic Human Right

Freedom is a fundamental human right that protects us from the domination of oppressive regimes or entities. Without freedom, our ability to make decisions for ourselves, pursue paths of our choosing, and express ourselves without fear of retribution is severely limited.13 Apr 2023

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Why Is Freedom Important? (28 Reasons) - Enlightio
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What is media freedom in simple words?
Freedom of the media is the fundamental right of various forms of media—including print, radio, television, and online media—to operate freely in society without government control, restriction, or censorship.

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Freedom of the Media | CSCE - Helsinki Commission
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What freedoms are protected by the first?
The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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The Constitution | The White House
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What is individual freedom principle?
The principle of freedom of an individual is the core tenet of liberalism. The foundation of liberalism is categorized into three. The first is the freedom from arbitrary rule, termed “negative freedom” which includes freedom of the press, equality before the law, freedom of conscience and right to property.

https://www.bartleby.com › essay
The Principles Of Freedom Of An Individual - 934 Words - Bartleby.com
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What is the quote on first principles?
[With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there. There's no chance of their having a conscious glimpse of the truth as long as they refuse to disturb the things they take for granted and remain incapable of explaining them.

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First Principles Quotes - Goodreads
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What are the 3 roles of media?
The media is best defined by the roles they play in society. They educate, inform and entertain through news, features and analysis in the press.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk › ...
1. WHAT IS THE MEDIA AND HOW DOES IT WORK - GOV.UK
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What are the 4 functions of media?

Mass media has four functions: surveillance, correlation, cultural transmission, and entertainment.10 Nov 2022

https://study.com › learn › lesson
Mass Media | Definition, Purpose & Functions - Video & Lesson Transcript
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What is the power of the media?

Introduction to the Power of Media

It serves as a mirror of the world, reflecting societal norms, values, and changes. From newspapers to social media platforms, media has the power to shape public opinion, influence decisions, and bring about social change.26 Aug 2023

https://aspiringyouths.com › essay
Essay on Power of Media - AspiringYouths
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What is the best quote about the freedom of the press?
"our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost." "nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.

https://www.loc.gov › collections
Selected Quotations from the Thomas Jefferson Papers | Articles and Essays
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What is the true value of freedom in modern society?

Freedom is associated with rights and liberties. It's easy to see why we would want these things: they allow us more control over our lives, which can lead to happiness. The true value of freedom is not about what you can do but about who you are. When free, you don't feel obliged to do anything.20 Sept 2022
https://iycoalition.org › the-true-val...
The true value of freedom in modern society - International Youth Coalition
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What are the five important of freedom?
The five freedoms it protects: speech, religion, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government. Together, these five guaranteed freedoms make the people of the United States of America the freest in the world.

https://www.mtsu.edu › page › thin...
7 things you need to know about the First Amendment | The Free Speech ...
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What are disadvantages of freedom?
Too much freedom can allow you to infringe on the freedom of another person. This often takes the form of endangering the person's safety, which is a violation of his right to be safe and protected. I'd argue the principal reason we have limits on our rights is to protect us from others and to protect others from us.

https://www.quora.com › When-do...
When does freedom become a disadvantage? - Quora
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What is the negative influence of media?

Media messages can have a negative or unhealthy influence on pre-teen and teenage behaviour and attitudes in certain areas, including self-image, body image, health and citizenship. Your child's self-image and body image can be influenced by social media, other media and advertising.12 Oct 2022

https://raisingchildren.net.au › medi...
Media influence on pre-teens & teenagers - Raising Children Network
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How do we know that we are free?
Autonomy and choice: Many people associate freedom with the ability to make choices and decisions for themselves. If you have the ability to act according to your own desires and beliefs, without undue external influence or coercion, you might perceive yourself as being free.
 
 
What is the quote on first principles?
[With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there. There's no chance of their having a conscious glimpse of the truth as long as they refuse to disturb the things they take for granted and remain incapable of explaining them
What is the power of freedom?
 
Freedom is the transformative power to determine our own destiny. With it, we can create a meaningful life, a life that will command our energy, our utility, our conviction, our uniqueness with a fierce intelligence, forthrightness and resilience.11 Jun 2011
What gives you freedom in life?
There are many different ways that people can achieve personal freedom and it doesn't always have to be about escaping from society or living on the edge. Personal freedom can also come from finding happiness in your personal life, being able to do what you love for a job, and not having any financial burden.1 Jul 2021
 
What is one of the greatest mental freedom?
One of the greatest mental freedoms is not caring what anyone else thinks of you. - Happy Friday everyone and don't forget to do…23 Jun 2023
 
Is freedom of the press a good thing?
 
Freedom of the press is an essential right in the United States and a core principle of democracy. Protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a free press helps maintain the balance of power in government.16 Feb 2021
https://it.usembassy.gov › why-free...
How did Sartre define freedom?
To begin with, Sartre's concept of freedom is based on the idea that human beings are radically free. According to Sartre, we are not bound by any external factors, such as God or nature, that determine our actions or choices. Instead, we are solely responsible for creating our own meaning and purpose in life.7 Apr 2023
 
What is psychological freedom?
Self-regulation lies at the heart of psychological freedom, and allows us to separate our wants from our needs. It lets us consider our initial reactions to what others are saying, writing or doing without immediately reacting in anger. It lets us have empathy for others and to be open to learning something new
 
 
What are the 3 types of freedom?
 
There are three types of freedom. The first kind of freedom is “freedom from,” a freedom from the constraints of society. Second, is “freedom to,” a freedom to do what we want to do. Thirdly, there is “freedom to be,” a freedom, not just to do what we want, but a freedom to be who we were meant to be.
 
 
What is the most important kind of freedom?
The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.
 
What is the true meaning of freedom?
Freedom is defined by Merriam Webster as the quality or state of being free, such as: the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. liberation from slavery or from the power of another. boldness of conception or execution. a political right.
 
Is freedom of the press a good thing?
Freedom of the press is an essential right in the United States and a core principle of democracy. Protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a free press helps maintain the balance of power in government.16 Feb 2021
https://it.usembassy.gov › why-free...
 
 
Freedom Is a Basic Human Right
 
Freedom is a fundamental human right that protects us from the domination of oppressive regimes or entities. Without freedom, our ability to make decisions for ourselves, pursue paths of our choosing, and express ourselves without fear of retribution is severely limited.13 Apr 2023
https://enlightio.com › why-is-freed...
 
What is media freedom in simple words?
 
Freedom of the media is the fundamental right of various forms of media—including print, radio, television, and online media—to operate freely in society without government control, restriction, or censorship.
 
https://www.csce.gov › issue › freed...
 
 
What freedoms are protected by the first?
 
The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
 
 
 
What is individual free
dom principle?
 
The principle of freedom of an individual is the core tenet of liberalism. The foundation of liberalism is categorized into three. The first is the freedom from arbitrary rule, termed “negative freedom” which includes freedom of the press, equality before the law, freedom of conscience and right to property.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top 10 Ways to Develop Personal Freedom as a Young Adult
  1. Scrap the permission-based mindset. ...
  2. Don't do things just because someone tells you you should. ...
  3. Understand what's valuable and what isn't. ...
  4. Make yourself a valuable entity. ...
  5. Take ownership of your actions and your decisions. ...
  6. Hold yourself accountable.
What is the press freedom in a democracy?
Press freedom is a cornerstone of any functioning democracy?
What is the principle of media freedom?
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the fundamental principle that communication and expression through various media, including printed and electronic media, especially published materials, should be considered a right to be exercised freely.
It's also foundational to protecting and promoting all of our other rights enshrined in international law—freedom of belief, freedom from fear, and freedom from want.3 May 2023
 
 
 
What is the meaning of freedom of the press?
freedom of the press. : the right to publish and disseminate information, thoughts, and opinions without restraint or censorship as guaranteed under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.16 Aug 2023
Beijing’s Global Media Influence Report 2022 | Freedom House

Key Findings

  • The Chinese government has expanded its global media footprint. The intensity of Beijing’s media influence efforts was designated as High or Very High in 16 of the 30 countries examined in this study, which covers the period from January 2019 to December 2021. In 18 of the countries, the Chinese regime’s efforts increased over the course of those three years.
  • The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its proxies are using more sophisticated and coercive tactics to shape media narratives and suppress critical reporting. Mass distribution of Beijing-backed content via mainstream media, harassment and intimidation of outlets that publish news or opinions disfavored by the Chinese government, and the use of cyberbullying, fake social media accounts, and targeted disinformation campaigns are among the tactics that have been employed more widely since 2019.
  • The success of Beijing’s efforts is often curtailed by independent media, civil society activity, and local laws protecting press freedom. Journalists, scholars, and civil society groups in all 30 countries responded to influence campaigns in ways that increased transparency, ensured diverse coverage, and enhanced local expertise on China. Laws governing freedom of information or media ownership, which are present in many democracies, helped to ensure transparency and insulate media ecosystems from CCP influence.
  • Inadequate government responses leave countries vulnerable or exacerbate the problem. Declines in press freedom and gaps in media regulations have reduced democratic resilience and created greater opportunities for future CCP media influence. In 23 countries, political leaders launched attacks on domestic media or exploited legitimate concerns about CCP influence to impose arbitrary restrictions, target critical outlets, or fuel xenophobic sentiment.
  • Democracies’ ability to counter CCP media influence is alarmingly uneven. Only half of the countries examined in this study achieved a rating of Resilient, while the remaining half were designated as Vulnerable. Taiwan faced the most intense CCP influence efforts, but it also mounted the strongest response, followed in both respects by the United States. Nigeria was deemed the most vulnerable to Beijing’s media influence campaigns.
  • Long-term democratic resilience will require a coordinated response. Governments, media outlets, civil society, and technology firms all have a role to play in enhancing democratic resilience in the face of increasingly aggressive CCP influence efforts. Building up independent, in-country expertise on China, supporting investigative journalism, improving transparency on media ownership and disinformation campaigns, and shoring up underlying protections for press freedom are all essential components of an effective response strategy. Governments should resist heavy-handed actions that limit access to information or otherwise conflict with human rights principles, instead forging partnerships with civil society and the media to ensure that all legislative and policy responses strengthen rather than weaken democratic institutions.

 

WRITTEN BY Sarah Cook

Authoritarian Expansion and the Power of Democratic Resilience

 

“Wherever the readers are, wherever the viewers are, that is where propaganda reports must extend their tentacles.” —Xi Jinping, 2016

“It may be subtle, some of these tricks are geared toward coaxing you to be soft on them [Chinese state-affiliated actors]. As for stopping, they can’t stop me from writing.” Ghanaian journalist who wished to remain anonymous, 2021

The Chinese government, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, is accelerating a massive campaign to influence media outlets and news consumers around the world. While some aspects of this effort use the tools of traditional public diplomacy, many others are covert, coercive, and potentially corrupt. A growing number of countries have demonstrated considerable resistance in recent years, but Beijing’s tactics are simultaneously becoming more sophisticated, more aggressive, and harder to detect.

The regime’s investment has already achieved some results, establishing new routes through which Chinese state media content can reach vast audiences, incentivizing self-censorship on topics disfavored by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and co-opting government officials and media owners in some countries to assist in spreading propaganda narratives or suppressing critical coverage. Beijing’s actions also have long-term implications, particularly as it gains leverage over key portions of the information infrastructure in many settings. The possible future impact of these developments should not be underestimated.

The Chinese government, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, is accelerating a massive campaign to influence media outlets and news consumers around the world.

Moreover, the experience of countries including Taiwan, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia point toward a recent turn to more aggressive, confrontational, or surreptitious tactics as milder influence efforts fail to achieve the desired results. This trend is likely to expand to additional countries in the coming years. More countries—and their researchers, journalists, and policymakers—should expect to encounter a rise in diplomatic intimidation, cyberbullying, manipulation by hired influencers on social media, and targeted disinformation campaigns designed to sow confusion about the CCP and their own societies. The Chinese regime and its proxies have shown that they have no qualms about deploying economic pressure to neutralize and suppress unfavorable coverage. As more governments and media owners face financial trouble, the likelihood increases that economic pressure from Beijing will be used, implicitly or explicitly, to reduce critical debate and reporting—not only on China’s domestic or geopolitical concerns, but also on its bilateral engagement with other countries.

WRITTEN BY
Sarah Cook

Authoritarian Expansion and the Power of Democratic Resilience

 

“Wherever the readers are, wherever the viewers are, that is where propaganda reports must extend their tentacles.” —Xi Jinping, 2016

“It may be subtle, some of these tricks are geared toward coaxing you to be soft on them [Chinese state-affiliated actors]. As for stopping, they can’t stop me from writing.” Ghanaian journalist who wished to remain anonymous, 2021

 

The Chinese government, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, is accelerating a massive campaign to influence media outlets and news consumers around the world. While some aspects of this effort use the tools of traditional public diplomacy, many others are covert, coercive, and potentially corrupt. A growing number of countries have demonstrated considerable resistance in recent years, but Beijing’s tactics are simultaneously becoming more sophisticated, more aggressive, and harder to detect.

The regime’s investment has already achieved some results, establishing new routes through which Chinese state media content can reach vast audiences, incentivizing self-censorship on topics disfavored by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and co-opting government officials and media owners in some countries to assist in spreading propaganda narratives or suppressing critical coverage. Beijing’s actions also have long-term implications, particularly as it gains leverage over key portions of the information infrastructure in many settings. The possible future impact of these developments should not be underestimated.

The Chinese government, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, is accelerating a massive campaign to influence media outlets and news consumers around the world.

Moreover, the experience of countries including Taiwan, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia point toward a recent turn to more aggressive, confrontational, or surreptitious tactics as milder influence efforts fail to achieve the desired results. This trend is likely to expand to additional countries in the coming years. More countries—and their researchers, journalists, and policymakers—should expect to encounter a rise in diplomatic intimidation, cyberbullying, manipulation by hired influencers on social media, and targeted disinformation campaigns designed to sow confusion about the CCP and their own societies. The Chinese regime and its proxies have shown that they have no qualms about deploying economic pressure to neutralize and suppress unfavorable coverage. As more governments and media owners face financial trouble, the likelihood increases that economic pressure from Beijing will be used, implicitly or explicitly, to reduce critical debate and reporting—not only on China’s domestic or geopolitical concerns, but also on its bilateral engagement with other countries.

More from BGMI

Front pages of the China Daily (left), the Beijing News (center), and the Global Times (right) featuring reaction to the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, which took place on April 15, 2019.

Recommendations

Recommendations for media, governments, civil society, donors, and tech companies.

Hong Kong Umbrella Protest

Country Reports

Scores and findings from the 30 countries surveyed in the BGMI report.

The title screen of a program called “How Xi Jinping Pursues Happiness For People” from the CGTN archive is seen as it plays on a computer monitor in London.

Methodology

More on the research, country selection, and scoring for Freedom House’s BGMI report.

Democracies are far from helpless in the face of the CCP’s influence efforts. In many countries, journalists and civil society groups have led the way by ensuring diversity of coverage, exposing coercive behavior and disinformation campaigns, and instilling both vigilance and resilience in a new generation of media workers, researchers, and news consumers. Meanwhile, some democratic governments are pursuing initiatives to increase transparency, improve coordination among relevant agencies, punish coercive actions by foreign officials, and spur public debate about the need for safeguards amid increased trade and investment with China. These measures will address Beijing’s encroachments while strengthening democratic institutions and independent media against other domestic and international threats. Such steps may require considerable political will—and a reversal of recent domestic pressure on media freedom in many countries. But allowing the CCP’s authoritarian media influence campaign to expand unchecked would carry its own costs for freedom of expression, access to uncensored information about China, and democratic governance in general.

Taipei, Taiwan – June 23, 2019 – Protesters hold placards with messages that read “reject red media” and “safeguard the nation’s democracy” during a rally against pro-China media in front of the Presidential Office building in Taipei. Photo credit: Hsu Tsunhsu/ AFP via Getty Images
Taipei, Taiwan – June 23, 2019 – Protesters hold placards with messages that read “reject red media” and “safeguard the nation’s democracy” during a rally against pro-China media in front of the Presidential Office building in Taipei. Photo credit: Hsu Tsunhsu/ AFP via Getty Images

For this report, Freedom House examined Beijing’s media influence efforts across 30 countries, all of which were rated Free or Partly Free in Freedom in the World during the 2019–21 coverage period. Of this group, 18 countries encountered expanded media influence efforts. In 16 of the 30, the intensity of CCP influence efforts was found to be High or Very High, while 10 countries faced a Notable level and only 4 countries faced a Low level. At the same time, all 30 countries demonstrated at least one incident of active pushback by policymakers, news outlets, civic groups, or social media users that reduced the impact of Beijing’s activities. Indeed, based on available data, public opinion toward China or the Chinese government has declined in most of the countries since 2018. This dynamic of greatly increased CCP investment offering comparatively modest returns—and even triggering a more active democratic response—is one of the key findings that emerged from the study.

Journalists and civil society groups have led the way in mitigating the impact of Beijing's media influence efforts.

Nevertheless, when the full constellation of media influence tactics, response efforts, and domestic liabilities—including crackdowns on independent media and gaps in legal protections for press freedom—are taken into account, the resilience of many target countries appears more fragile. Among the 30 countries assessed using Freedom House’s new methodology, only half were found to be resilient in the face of Beijing’s media influence, and the other half were found to be vulnerable. This breakdown offers a stark warning as to the risk of complacency, even if many of the CCP’s existing campaigns have floundered.

This report offers the most comprehensive assessment to date of Beijing’s global media influence and the ways in which democracies are responding. Drawing on media investigations, interviews, scholarly publications, Chinese government sources, and on-the-ground research by local analysts, it covers developments in 30 countries during the period from January 2019 to December 2021. It updates and expands upon two previous Freedom House studies published in 20131 and 2020,2 and it focuses largely on democracies to provide a more in-depth understanding of the deployment and reception of influence tactics in countries that possess relatively strong institutional protections for media freedom. Finally, the report offers recommendations to governments, the media sector, technology firms, and civil society groups on how they can bolster democratic defenses against CCP interference.

The title screen of a program called “How Xi Jinping Pursues Happiness For People” from the CGTN archive is seen as it plays on a computer monitor in London.
London – Feb. 4, 2021 – The title screen of a program called “How Xi Jinping Pursues Happiness For People” from the archives of China Global Television Network (CGTN), the international arm of China’s state-run broadcaster, is seen as it plays on a computer monitor in London. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

The goals and narratives of Beijing's influence campaign

At the beginning of this report’s coverage period in January 2019, the CCP leadership appeared to be in a strong position, both domestically and internationally. Xi Jinping had successfully rewritten the constitution to remove limits on his tenure as president, and the party was sitting atop the world’s second-largest economy, a tightly controlled information environment at home, and a growing apparatus for exerting media influence abroad. But as the next three years progressed, the regime suffered a series of unprecedented, self-inflicted blows to its legitimacy: a crackdown on large-scale prodemocracy protests in Hong Kong, the attempted cover-up of the COVID-19 outbreak by officials in Wuhan and the central government’s draconian pandemic response, related economic contraction and mismanagement, and a regular drumbeat of credible exposés regarding authorities’ brutal treatment of ethnic minority populations in Xinjiang.

China’s state media, diplomats, and other foreign-facing entities have been tasked with addressing these reputational challenges, expanding Beijing’s global influence, ensuring openness to Chinese investment, and limiting any international speech or actions that are perceived to threaten the CCP’s grip on power. Their efforts include both promotion of preferred narratives—about China, its regime, or its foreign policy priorities—and more aggressive attempts to marginalize, discredit, or entirely suppress any anti-CCP voices, incisive political commentary, or media exposés that present the Chinese government and its leaders in a negative light.

Tunisian Culture Minister Hayet Guermazi (left) and Chinese Ambassador to Tunisia Zhang Jianguo attend the signing ceremony of the Tunisia-China Cultural Cooperation Protocol in Tunis, Tunisia, on Feb. 18, 2022.
Tunis, Tunisia – Feb. 18, 2022 – Tunisian Culture Minister Hayet Guermazi (left) and Chinese Ambassador to Tunisia Zhang Jianguo attend the signing ceremony of the Tunisia-China Cultural Cooperation Protocol in Tunis, Tunisia, on Feb. 18, 2022. Photo by Adel Ezzine/Xinhua via Getty Images.

To achieve the regime’s goals, Chinese diplomats and state media outlets have invested significant resources in advancing particular narratives. The target audiences include foreign news consumers, Chinese expatriate or diaspora communities, and observers back home in China. In many countries, Chinese state propaganda includes a standard package of messages showcasing China’s economic and technological prowess, celebrating key anniversaries or the benefits of close bilateral relations, and highlighting attractive elements of Chinese culture. During the pandemic, there has been a major focus on applauding Beijing’s medical aid—such as the provision of masks, protective equipment, and Chinese-made vaccines. Many of these common themes are augmented with customized details intended to resonate with local audiences, and they are delivered in a wide range of languages. Chinese state media have leveraged numerous outlets and social media accounts that produce content in national or regional languages such as Kiswahili, Sinhala, and Romanian. In all 30 countries under study, CCP-linked actors published content in at least one major local language, and often in more than one.

But this study’s examination of state media content across the full sample of countries since 2019 also identified more problematic types of messaging. In every country, Chinese diplomats or state media outlets openly promoted falsehoods or misleading content to news consumers—on topics including the origins of COVID-19, the efficacy of certain vaccines, and prodemocracy protests in Hong Kong—in an apparent attempt to confuse foreign audiences and deflect criticism. Moreover, there was a concerted effort to whitewash and deny the human rights atrocities and violations of international law being committed against members of ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. Lastly, Chinese state-affiliated actors adopted stridently anti-American or anti-Western messaging to rebuff local concerns about Chinese state-linked activities, including those related to investment projects, opaque loans, or military expansionism, by attributing such concerns to a “Cold War mentality” or a misguided US-led attempt to “contain China.”

The full range of tactics that are now being deployed go far beyond simple propaganda messaging. They involve deliberate efforts to conceal the source of pro-Beijing content and to censor unfavorable views. In at least some countries, activities by CCP-linked actors appeared to be aimed at gaining influence over key nodes in the media infrastructure, undermining electoral integrity and social cohesion, or exporting authoritarian approaches to journalism and information control.

BGMI Tactics

Expanding authoritarian media influence tactics

The CCP and its proxies engage in an array of media influence tactics, including propaganda, disinformation campaigns, censorship and intimidation, control over content-distribution infrastructure, trainings for media workers and officials, and co-optation of media serving local Chinese diaspora populations. The 30 in-depth country narratives attached to this study analyze Beijing’s activities in each of these six categories, illustrating how such avenues of influence are utilized in different combinations by varied CCP-linked actors around the world.

Front pages of the China Daily (left), the Beijing News (center), and the Global Times (right) featuring reaction to the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, which took place on April 15, 2019.
Beijing – April 17, 2019 – Front pages of Chinese state-run newspapers China Daily (left), Beijing News (center), and Global Times (right) featuring reaction to the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, which took place on April 15, 2019. Photo by Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

Although the precise mixture of tactics varies from country to country, a global perspective reveals several noteworthy trends:

  • Increasing Beijing-backed content in mainstream media: Content-sharing agreements and other partnerships with mainstream media are the most significant avenue through which Chinese state media reach large local audiences. The practice allows them to inject Chinese state-produced or Beijing-friendly material into print, television, radio, and online outlets that reach more news consumers and garner greater trust than Chinese state outlets are able to achieve on their own. The labeling of the content often fails to clearly inform readers and viewers that it came from Chinese state outlets. Examples of content placements by Beijing-backed entities were found in over 130 news outlets across 30 countries, reaching massive audiences. The Chinese embassy in India, for instance, has published advertorials in the Hindu, an English-language newspaper with an estimated daily readership of six million people.3 Besides inserted content, coproduction arrangements in 12 countries involved the Chinese side providing technical support or resources to aid reporting in or on China by their foreign counterparts in exchange for a degree of editorial control over the finished product. In nine countries—such as Romania and Kenya—monetary compensation or gifts like electronic devices were also offered for the publication of pro-Beijing articles written by local journalists or commentators. Multiple China-based entities with CCP ties—ranging from flagship state news outlets like Xinhua News Agency, whose editorial lines are tightly controlled by the party, to provincial governments and companies with close CCP ties such as Huawei—are aggressively promoting such partnerships. New agreements were signed or upgraded in 16 of the 30 countries assessed since 2019. >>Read more on this trend
  • A rise in coercive tactics: More aggressive activities such as targeted intimidation of individual reporters, cyberbullying, and cyberattacks against disfavored news outlets have expanded since 2019, reaching 24 of the 30 countries under study in some form. In half of the countries examined, Chinese diplomats and other government representatives took actions to intimidate, harass, or pressure journalists, editors, or commentators in response to their coverage, at times issuing demands to retract or delete unfavorable content. The requests are often backed up by implicit or explicit threats of harm to bilateral relations, withdrawal of advertising, defamation suits, or other legal repercussions if the media outlet, journalist, or commentator does not comply. In August 2021, the Chinese embassy in Kuwait successfully pressured the Arab Times to delete from its website an interview with Taiwan’s foreign minister after it was published in print. The online article was replaced with a statement from the embassy itself.4 Hong Kong authorities and the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei have joined Chinese officials and diplomats in requesting censorship or engaging in legal harassment in countries such as France and the United Kingdom. In Israel, Hong Kong authorities asked a website-hosting company to shutter a prodemocracy website and warned that refusal could result in fines or prison time for employees under the territory’s National Security Law.5 In 17 countries, local officials, media owners, and top executives also intervened on their own initiative or at the Chinese embassy’s request to suppress news coverage that was disfavored by Beijing. >>Read more on this trend
  • Covert activities and manipulation on global social media platforms: Well-known international platforms like Facebook and Twitter are an increasingly important and visible avenue for content dissemination by Chinese diplomats and state media outlets. In addition to global accounts that have gained tens of millions of followers, this study found country-specific accounts run by a diplomat or state media outlet in 28 of the 30 countries examined. Accounts affiliated with China Radio International and diplomats who genuinely engaged with local users appeared to gain authentic traction, even as others operated by Chinese officials or media entities were largely ignored or mocked by users. These mixed results may have motivated the turn to emerging tactics involving covert manipulation, such as the purchase of fake followers. Armies of fake accounts that artificially amplify posts from diplomats were found in half of the countries assessed. Related initiatives to pay or train unaffiliated social media influencers to promote pro-Beijing content to their followers, without revealing their CCP ties, occurred in Taiwan, the United States, and the United Kingdom. In nine countries, there was at least one targeted disinformation campaign that employed networks of fake accounts to spread falsehoods or sow confusion. Several such campaigns reflected not just attempts to manipulate news and information about human rights abuses in China or Beijing’s foreign policy priorities, but also a disconcerting trend of meddling in the domestic politics of the target country. >>Read more on this trend
BGMI Censorship and Intimidation

Beijing retains heavy influence over content consumed by Chinese speakers in much of the world, as the CCP considers potential political dissent among the global diaspora to be a key threat to regime security. In 28 of the 30 countries assessed, state-owned or pro-Beijing media played a dominant role shaping news content available to Chinese speakers, especially via the popular WeChat social media application. Chinese diaspora news outlets or politicians who wish to broadcast posts to Chinese speakers outside China via the platform’s “official account” feature are subject to the same politicized censorship that is applied to accounts inside China, forcing administrators to screen the shared content.6

Hong Kong authorities and the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei have joined Chinese diplomats in threatening reprisals over unfavorable content.

Several potentially important avenues of influence—such as the purchase of stakes in foreign news outlets and the export of censorship technologies for use by foreign governments—have not yet been widely exploited by Beijing. Nevertheless, both of those activities did occur in the study’s sample, and they could become more common in the future. Moreover, in many countries, China-based companies with close CCP ties have gained a foothold in key sectors associated with content distribution, including social media and news aggregation (Tencent and ByteDance), digital television (StarTimes), and mobile devices and telecommunications infrastructure (Xiaomi and Huawei).7 Although systematic manipulation of information flows in politically and socially meaningful ways has not yet occurred, occasional incidents or evidence of latent capabilities have been documented in several countries.8

Power of Pushback

The strengths of the democratic response

 

The strengths of the democratic response

Evidence of democratic pushback against Beijing’s influence efforts proliferated during this report’s three-year coverage period. Across all of the countries under study, journalists, commentators, civic groups, regulators, technology firms, and policymakers have taken steps that reduced the impact of the CCP’s activities. In most countries, local media and civil society have been at the forefront of the response.

Many local journalists engaged in investigative reporting on China-linked projects or investments in their countries, exposing corruption, labor rights violations, environmental damage, or other harms. In 21 of the 30 countries, local outlets specifically covered CCP political and media influence. For example, a media investigation in Israel uncovered Chinese state funding for a coproduction with the Israeli public broadcaster,9 a Malaysian news outlet mapped the introduction of false information about Hong Kong protesters into the local Chinese-language media ecosystem,10 and an Italian outlet uncovered disproportionate coverage of Chinese COVID-19 aid on local television stations that also had content partnerships with Chinese state outlets.11 This reporting often raised public awareness and galvanized action to counter covert or corrupt influence tactics. In at least 10 countries, news outlets discontinued their content-sharing or other partnerships with Chinese state media. In 27 countries, even outlets that continued publishing Chinese state content also published more critical or unfavorable news about the Chinese government’s policies at home or in the country in question, providing their readers with relatively balanced and diverse coverage overall. And despite the CCP’s heavy influence over Chinese diaspora media, alternative sources of information have gained ground among Chinese-language audiences in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia, while supplying Chinese speakers around the world with online access to independent news and analysis.

One of the most common vulnerabilities identified by the analysts and interviewees consulted for this study is a low level of independent expertise on China in local media, especially regarding domestic Chinese politics and CCP foreign influence. Many outlets compensated for this gap and provided a wealth of critical reporting to news consumers by making effective and widespread use of independent international news services for their coverage of China. Meanwhile, civil society initiatives are developing a new corps of journalists and researchers to provide a local perspective on bilateral relations, monitor for problematic CCP influence efforts, and share best practices for China-related reporting. These efforts include digital news platforms dedicated to covering China’s relationship with Latin America and trainings for journalists in Nigeria, Kenya, and Tunisia on how to cover Chinese investment projects. New streams of work on CCP influence have emerged from think tanks in Indonesia, Australia, the United Kingdom, Poland, Argentina, and Romania. Joining them in many countries are local communities of Chinese dissidents, Hong Kongers, Tibetan and Uyghur exiles, and practitioners of Falun Gong who have striven to expose incidents of attempted media influence, censorship on China-based social media platforms like WeChat, and acts of transnational repression by the CCP and embassy officials.

Kuala Lumpur – July 5, 2019 – People take part in an event in front of the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur in solidarity with the Uighur community in China and to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the riots in Urumqi that left nearly 200 people dead.
Kuala Lumpur – July 5, 2019 – People take part in an event in front of the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur in solidarity with the Uyghur community in China and to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the riots in Urumqi that left nearly 200 people dead. Photo by Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images.

Countries with a strong tradition of press freedom, and with networks of organizations dedicated to upholding its principles, tend to mount a more robust response to Chinese government influence efforts. In 10 of the countries under study, local press freedom groups and the broader journalistic community mobilized in solidarity to condemn incidents in which Chinese government officials or affiliated companies engaged in intimidating or coercive behavior. In Kenya, the Media Council, a self-regulatory body for news outlets, rebuked the public broadcaster for publishing unlabeled Chinese state propaganda.12 Taiwanese civil society has been instrumental in raising public awareness of CCP influence in local media, taking action in the form of mass demonstrations, legislative advocacy, journalist trainings, disinformation investigations, and media literacy programs.

Local reporting on Chinese Communist Party political and media influence was especially effective at raising awareness and galvanizing action to counter covert and coercive tactics.

The private sector in democracies also plays an important role. Globally popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have improved their monitoring and response capacity over the past three years, in some cases rapidly detecting and removing fake accounts that were artificially amplifying Chinese diplomatic or state media content, spreading false information about perceived enemies of the CCP, or attempting to muddle public discourse about COVID-19, social tensions, or elections in countries such as the United States and Taiwan.

The platforms introduced labels for Chinese state-affiliated accounts and, in some cases, warnings to users about suspicious content, though there are still significant gaps in implementation. In 16 of the 30 countries, researchers found that Chinese government-affiliated accounts and news sources lacked the relevant labels on the leading social media platforms.

Legal safeguards and shortfalls in political leadership 

As CCP influence efforts have received more media coverage, political elites in some countries have begun to recognize the potential threat to national interests and democratic values. However, coordinated policy responses were undertaken in only a few settings, typically those facing more aggressive influence efforts from Beijing. A more common reaction was to apply existing laws that either broadly protect press freedom or enhance scrutiny of foreign influence activities in order to support democratic resilience in China-related cases.

In some countries, particularly those where democracy was already weak or under stress, government officials responded in ways that caused harm, for instance by infringing on freedom of expression, politicizing policy debates, or encouraging discrimination against members of the Chinese diaspora. Such cases highlight the need for democracies to adopt clear and narrowly tailored rules surrounding foreign influence and investment, with independent oversight and an emphasis on transparency mechanisms rather than criminalization or censorship.

BGMI_Resilience_Map

Many democracies have laws and regulations with transparency provisions that can facilitate detection of CCP influence. Journalists in several countries—including the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and Peru—made use of freedom of information laws to reveal new details about Chinese government investments, loans, or provision of Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines to corrupt local officials. 13

In 24 of the 30 countries in this study, there were rules requiring some level of public reporting or transparency on the identity of media owners, their sources of revenue, and their other business interests. More than two-thirds of the countries under study had an investment screening and review mechanism for foreign companies’ involvement with digital information infrastructure. And in the United States, despite concerns about the vague wording and inconsistent application of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, stronger enforcement with regard to Chinese state news outlets enhanced transparency on the financing of content placements in mainstream media, within and outside of the United States. This appeared to have a beneficial deterrent effect, as media outlets sought to avoid the reputational risk of publishing CCP propaganda.14

Rules governing foreign media ownership, especially in the broadcast sector, were present in 28 of the 30 countries, placing limitations on the size of foreign-owned stakes or requiring regulatory notification and approval before a stake is sold. Such measures help explain the paucity of examples of Chinese state entities owning stakes in foreign media outlets.

Yet these same sorts of laws and regulations can also be applied in ways that undermine free expression, particularly when they contain provisions that criminalize speech, establish politicized enforcement mechanisms, or impose sweeping, vaguely defined restrictions. In the Philippines and Mozambique, laws or proposals governing foreign ownership or content dissemination have been used by political leaders to target independent sources of news that carried criticism of the government.15 In Poland, the government tried to justify a push to change the US ownership of a private media company by citing the need to protect Polish media from control by foreign powers like China and Russia.16

In India, investment-screening regulations introduced in 2020 for digital media companies, including news aggregators, require any foreign personnel working in the country—either as an employee or as a consultant—to obtain a security clearance from the government that can be revoked for “any reason whatsoever.”17 In Australia, the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme has been credited with shedding light on foreign entities’ activities in the country, but it has also been criticized for lacking reporting requirements on foreign-backed expenditures and contributing to an atmosphere of suspicion affecting Chinese Australians.18

The existing legal frameworks in many countries lack strong safeguards for press freedom or contain other weaknesses that leave the media ecosystem more vulnerable to the influence campaigns of an economically powerful authoritarian state. Fewer than half of the 30 countries assessed had laws limiting cross-ownership that would, for instance, prevent content producers and content distributors from being controlled by a single entity. In Senegal, Australia, and the United Kingdom, meanwhile, flawed defamation laws facilitated lawsuits or legal threats against journalists, news outlets, and commentators whose work addressed Chinese investment or political influence. In 11 countries—including Brazil, Panama, Peru, Poland, and India—powerful political and economic actors have similarly used civil and criminal defamation suits in recent years to penalize and deter critical news coverage unrelated to China, indicating that journalists in those settings could also be vulnerable to the suppression of reporting related to CCP interests. Only nine of the 30 countries had anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) laws or legal precedents in place to protect the work of journalists.

Laws and regulations with transparency provisions facilitated detection of Chinese Communist Party influence.

Rather than acting to address such vulnerabilities and fortify democratic resilience, government officials in 19 of the 30 countries have increased their own attacks on independent media, journalists, and civil society since 2019. Media outlets operating in more politically hostile or physically dangerous environments have less capacity to expose and resist the influence tactics deployed by the CCP and its proxies, especially if local political elites favor close ties with Beijing. In Ghana, Malaysia, Mozambique, Senegal, and Kuwait, local officials used their own political clout or restrictive regulations to suppress critical reporting or override independent oversight related to China.

In Malaysia and the Philippines, the same independent news outlets that have published investigative reports exposing China-linked disinformation campaigns have been at the receiving end of intense political pressure and judicial harassment because of critical coverage of their own governments.

Awareness of the threat posed by Beijing’s efforts is undoubtedly growing around the world. While some political leaders in 23 countries—including presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, and members of parliament—echoed CCP talking points in their own comments to local media, other elected representatives in more than half of the countries in this study publicly expressed concern over the covert, coercive, or corrupting aspects of CCP influence campaigns, including in the political, media, and information sectors. They called parliamentary hearings or addressed questions to government ministers on topics such as the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative,19 Chinese government influence in academia,20 foreign interference through social media,21 and official responses to the persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang.22 In many cases, policymakers were careful to differentiate between the CCP and ordinary Chinese people.

Nevertheless, some politicians and public figures used the pretext of CCP interference to lash out indiscriminately at China-linked targets, for instance by enacting arbitrary bans on popular mobile phone applications—as occurred in India and was attempted in the United States. In a more troubling phenomenon, local political leaders or prominent media personalities in 13 countries appeared to distort legitimate concerns about Beijing’s influence in a manner that fueled xenophobic, anti-Chinese sentiment. This seemingly contributed to hate crimes or unsubstantiated accusations of spying for members of the Chinese diaspora in eight countries.

BGMI Best and Worst Responses

Assessing the impact of Beijing’s media influence

As the CCP devotes billions of dollars a year to its foreign propaganda and censorship efforts, it is important to ask how successful they are in different parts of the world, and what effects this could have on the health of global democracy in the future. It is significant that Chinese state narratives and content do not dominate coverage of China in most countries. Indeed, media outlets around the world continue to publish daily news that the CCP would prefer to quash and the public in many democracies is highly skeptical of obvious Chinese state propaganda.

Still, Beijing’s media influence projects have achieved results with regard to limiting critical original reporting and commentary on China in many countries, establishing dominance over Chinese-language media, and building a foundation for further manipulation. Faced with implicit or explicit threats of lost advertising, reduced access to China or Chinese diplomats, harm to relatives residing in China, or damage to bilateral relations, journalists and commentators in 18 countries in this study reportedly engaged in self-censorship or more cautious reporting on topics that are likely to anger the Chinese government.

Dakar, Senegal – Nov. 29, 2021 – Chinese President Xi Jinping (on the screen) delivers a speech during the China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) meeting in Dakar. Photo by Seyllou/AFP via Getty Images.
Dakar, Senegal – Nov. 29, 2021 – Chinese President Xi Jinping (on the screen) delivers a speech during the China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) meeting in Dakar. Photo by Seyllou/AFP via Getty Images.
Despite Beijing's efforts, Chinese state narratives and content do not dominate coverage of China in most countries.

These achievements alone grant the CCP a significant ability to reduce transparency and distort policy discussions on topics of vital importance. Many governments are making decisions about agreements with the Chinese state or China-based companies that could affect their countries for years to come in terms of national security, political autonomy, economic development, public debt, public health, and environmental degradation. Such agreements deserve scrutiny, including open debate about their advantages and disadvantages, rather than back-room negotiations and vacuous “win-win” rhetoric. In places like Nigeria, Panama, and the Philippines, public suspicion and backlash emerged after local officials’ corrupt dealings linked to China were exposed in the media. But thanks in part to Beijing’s influence efforts, many bilateral accords are signed under conditions of opacity rather than transparency.

The suppression of independent reporting about China-related topics, including through reprisals against outlets that already struggle to survive in a competitive and financially unstable industry, also has the effect of obstructing public and elite understanding of China itself, its ruling party, and its globally active corporations. News consumers and businesses are less able to make informed judgments about the political stability of a major trading partner, respond to global health and environmental challenges in which China plays a pivotal role, or take action to support freedom and justice for China’s people. Instead, aggressive behavior toward journalists globally by Chinese diplomats, companies like Huawei, and pro-Beijing internet trolls brings China’s authoritarian reality to foreign shores, complete with the associated fear of reprisals and self-censorship. This is particularly palpable in Chinese expatriate and exile communities, but it is increasingly evident among non-Chinese journalists and commentators as well.

Perhaps the most disturbing result of the CCP’s global media influence campaign is the extent to which it helps the regime avoid accountability for gross violations of international law, such as the persecution of minority populations in Xinjiang, the demolition of political rights and civil liberties in Hong Kong, and various acts of transnational repression targeting dissidents overseas. When a permanent member of the UN Security Council is able to commit atrocities and ignore international treaties with impunity, it erodes the integrity of the global human rights system as a whole, encouraging similar abuses by other regimes.

Of course, the effects of Beijing’s worldwide engagement in the media and information sector are not uniformly negative. In fact, it would not have achieved even its limited success to date if it were not addressing genuine needs. The availability of Chinese mobile technology and digital television services has expanded access to information and communication for millions of people, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia. The provision of broadcasting equipment or uptake of a user-friendly mobile application like WeChat can empower local media and diaspora communities, even if they may also skew competition or facilitate surveillance and censorship. Any initiatives by democratic governments to counter CCP media influence efforts must take these factors into consideration.

When operating in democracies, Chinese diplomats, state media outlets, and their proxies have encountered serious obstacles.

Conclusion: Growing investment, limited returns

For at least the past three decades, the CCP has sought to extend the reach of its robust propaganda and censorship apparatus beyond China’s borders. Its first foreign influence efforts targeted Chinese-speaking communities in the aftermath of the regime’s brutal crackdown on the 1989 prodemocracy movement, whose calls for freedom were widely supported by Chinese people living overseas. But since the early 2000s, acting on instructions from top leaders, CCP officials have invested billions of dollars in a far more ambitious campaign to shape media content and narratives around the world and in multiple languages. This mission has gained urgency and significance since 2019, as global audiences have displayed sympathy toward prodemocracy protesters in Hong Kong and Uyghurs detained in Xinjiang, while blaming Chinese officials for suppressing information about the initial outbreak of COVID-19.

The past three years have been marked by an increase in CCP media influence efforts and the emergence of new tactics on the one hand, but also by an apparent decline in the global reputation of Beijing and Xi Jinping on the other, particularly among residents of democracies. Indeed, when operating in democracies, Chinese diplomats, state media outlets, and their proxies have encountered serious obstacles. In addition to the underlying resilience associated with democratic protections for media freedom, there has been a growing public awareness of Beijing’s activities and more diligent work by governments, investigative journalists, and civil society activists to detect, expose, and resist certain forms of influence.

The CCP’s own actions often undermine the narratives it seeks to promote. Its domestic human rights abuses and aggressive foreign policy stances undercut the positive story that Chinese diplomats and state media are trying to tell, of a responsible international stakeholder and a benign if authoritarian governance model. International and local media have covered these developments, and in 23 out of the 30 countries in this study, public opinion has become less favorable to China or the Chinese government.

These outcomes illustrate the importance of rights-respecting responses to authoritarian media influence efforts and of enhancements to underlying democratic resilience. In confronting the challenge of global authoritarianism, democracies are most effective when they uphold the very values and institutions that distinguish them from authoritarian regimes, including protections and support for independent media and civil society. Long-term success will require further action—including investments of financial and human capital, creativity, and innovation—to defend media independence against both foreign and domestic pressures. But despite fears about the supposed efficiency of autocratic models, the findings of this study offer substantial evidence that the core components of democracy are capable of insulating free societies against Beijing’s authoritarian influence.

 


 

WRITTEN BY
Sarah Cook
Beijing -- A police officer outside the Belgium embassy in Beijing on June 19, 2019. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images.
Beijing — June 19, 2019 — A Chinese paramilitary police officer attempts to stop a foreign correspondent outside the Belgium embassy in Beijing. Photo by Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

 

Intimidation and Censorship

The Sharper Edge of Beijing’s Influence

 

Within its own borders, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) presides over the world’s most sophisticated and multifaceted apparatus for information control. The regime uses direct censorship of traditional media, legal and technical controls over social media, and politicized prosecutions to stifle independent reporting and commentary. In trying to influence foreign media, Beijing must work with a much more limited set of tools.

Nevertheless, China’s leaders have cast a shadow over news coverage abroad through a combination of actions taken at home, pressures applied against foreign journalists and editors in targeted countries, and incentives that encourage foreign media owners and governments to preemptively obstruct reporting on China-related topics. Even as many journalists and outlets push back, the intimidation, threats, and economic leverage emanating from Beijing have taken a toll.

Ten years ago, the CCP’s censorship of foreign media appeared to focus on international outlets operating within China and Chinese-language outlets based abroad, including those in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Today, some of the same tactics are being applied to mainstream media in a growing number of countries. The restrictive, censorial side of Beijing’s influence efforts remains much less visible than the daily barrage of Chinese state propaganda being disseminated globally. Yet it has affected not only what news is reported in many countries, but also how and by whom.

 

Constraining foreign correspondents and journalists in exile

At the center of the Chinese government’s strategy for controlling international news coverage about the country and its rulers are the tight restrictions—and increasing intimidation—applied to China-based correspondents for foreign outlets. Conditions for these journalists have deteriorated considerably since 2019, exacerbating an already difficult situation.

New and more sinister tactics have been added to the long-standing practices of heavy surveillance and restricted travel to sensitive locations like Xinjiang, Tibet, and protest sites—all of which have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Foreign correspondents have been subjected to mass expulsions or visa rejections based on nationality, attempted interrogations in connection with national security charges, and questionable lawsuits by sources who had explicitly agreed to be interviewed.23 The spouses and children of foreign correspondents have also been harassed, prompting some to leave the country. In addition to correspondents from countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Taiwan—whose relations with China have become more adversarial in recent years—reporters from Poland, Spain, and France have experienced expulsions or restrictions on reporting within China since 2019.

Restrictions on Chinese nationals who work as research assistants for foreign journalists—subject to strict oversight by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs—have also tightened. The December 2020 detention of Chinese national Haze Fan, who at the time was working for Bloomberg News, on opaque state security charges was especially chilling for her colleagues and others in the industry. Fan was released on bail in June 2022 after more than a year in custody, but her case was still pending at the time of writing.24

Even as many journalists and outlets push back, the intimidation, threats, and economic leverage emanating from Beijing have taken a toll.

Severe limitations on the work of foreign correspondents from a handful of key countries have a multiplier effect on international coverage of China, given how widely their reporting is used by outlets in other countries that cannot afford their own overseas bureaus; many Chinese nationals, whether at home or abroad, also rely on such news organizations for unbiased information about their own country.

Uncertainty surrounding journalist visas and local hiring adds expenses, raising the cost of entry and limiting the number of outlets that can maintain reporters in China or dispatch them beyond major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. The content vacuum created by the regime’s restrictions then provides an opening for material from official Chinese news services like Xinhua and China Central Television (CCTV), which Beijing has aggressively promoted in foreign media markets.

Severe restrictions on foreign correspondents have a multiplier effect on international coverage of China.

In addition to increasing pressure on foreign correspondents in China, Chinese internal security forces have gone so far as to threaten, harass, or imprison the family members of journalists based outside the country who expose rights violations or otherwise report news that is disfavored by Beijing. Such incidents occurred in five countries under study—Australia, India, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States—with the relatives of US-based Uyghur reporters for Radio Free Asia serving long prison sentences.25 Intimidation of this sort has likely occurred elsewhere among members of the Chinese, Tibetan, and Uyghur diasporas, but it is difficult to document. The threats create a strong incentive for self-censorship, depriving international audiences of access to information from journalists with intimate knowledge of China and its ethnic and religious minority populations.

Censorship beyond China

The CCP regime’s efforts to use threats, bullying, and economic leverage to suppress disfavored reporting extend far beyond China’s borders. In 16 of the 30 countries examined in this study, Chinese diplomats or other government representatives took steps to intimidate, harass, or pressure journalists, editors, or commentators in response to their coverage. The tone of the interventions was not that of polite disagreement. Public castigation of a journalist or commentator by the sitting ambassador of the world’s most powerful authoritarian regime—as occurred in France and Peru—will inevitably intimidate. In Italy, similar behavior by an embassy spokesperson caused a local reporter to reconsider attending a newsworthy event surrounding the signing of a bilateral agreement.

Private forms of pressure appear to be more common, with Chinese representatives reaching out directly to reporters, commentators, or editors and urging them to issue a retraction or apology. Journalists in the United Kingdom reported that their editors received long, angry “screaming down the line” phone calls from the Chinese embassy following stories that were unfavorable to the CCP.26 The calls, emails, and letters from the embassy often contain veiled threats—or in incidents in Israel, Australia, and Ghana, explicit threats—of damage to bilateral relations.

Threats of legal or economic reprisals against a news outlet, such as defamation suits or withdrawal of advertising, were also reported in some cases. In 2018, a Chinese state-owned company threatened to sue a leading Kenyan newspaper, the Standard, for its investigative reporting on abuses at the railway operated by the firm. The paper declined to retract the story or apologize. According to its editor, “the Chinese embassy and their communications manager canceled all their advertisements with the Standard and withdrew the [paid advertorial] supplement.” He added, “They demanded that we had to stop negative coverage.”27

Although sometimes rebuffed, embassies’ efforts have yielded results, especially when they apply pressure to the upper management of media outlets in less democratic or more economically challenging environments. In Nigeria, the Chinese embassy has reportedly reached out to editors at major news outlets and paid journalists not to cover negative stories about China. The commissions editor at a major online publication reported in an interview: “I know they give money to journalists so that they will not do critical stories and then they do breakfast meetings with editors early in the morning. They build relationships with editors across media organizations.”28

In 12 countries, local officials took measures to suppress coverage that might be disfavored by the Chinese government.

Implicit threats to journalists’ work, such as loss of access to embassy personnel for future interviews or exclusion from subsidized press trips to China, are also used to discourage disfavored reporting. In October 2020, when the Chinese embassy sent a letter to Indian media asking them to respect the “One China” principle and not report on Taiwan’s national day, it contained veiled threats of restricted access to the embassy for those who did not comply.29 In Italy, journalists who had published critical coverage about the Chinese regime or embassy were reportedly excluded from groups on the WhatsApp messaging platform that facilitated access to Chinese diplomats for comment.30

Chinese state representatives have sometimes taken an indirect approach, pressuring local governments to intervene and either “guide” the media or shun outlets that persist in their criticism. A municipal council in Sydney, Australia, barred the Vision China Times, a local Chinese-language paper that was critical of the CCP, from sponsoring a Chinese New Year event after sustained pressure from the Chinese consulate, according to emails revealed through a 2019 freedom of information request.31

A country’s authorities may also interfere with the media’s coverage of China and local Chinese activities on their own initiative, whether to curry favor with Beijing, to defend shared interests, or for other reasons. In 12 countries, local officials took measures, through control of publicly funded media or regulatory enforcement, to suppress coverage that might be disfavored by the Chinese government, often without direct intervention by the embassy. In Mozambique, a provincial government blocked a private television channel from airing an evening rebroadcast of critical reporting about a Chinese company’s involvement in environmental degradation.32 In Malaysia, the Home Ministry in late 2019 denied a publishing permit to a Chinese-language newspaper that was critical of the CCP, citing the need to protect bilateral ties.33

 

Huawei, Hong Kong, and hackers pile on

Chinese embassies are not the only Beijing-linked actors engaged in intimidation and censorship efforts. In a relatively new phenomenon, Hong Kong authorities and major Chinese companies with close CCP ties, like Huawei, have engaged in similar behavior. After a French researcher referred on television to Huawei being under the control of the Chinese state and the CCP in March 2019, the telecommunications firm filed a defamation suit against her, the program’s presenter, and the production company; the case was still ongoing three years later.34

As political repression has intensified in Hong Kong since 2019, the authorities there have joined their mainland counterparts in trying to control news and information about the territory globally, using local laws that assert extraterritorial jurisdiction to restrict speech by individuals and entities based abroad. In December 2021, the Hong Kong government sent a letter to London’s Sunday Times that threatened prosecution over an editorial which had urged voters to boycott that month’s legislative elections in the territory. The letter cited a provision of the Elections Ordinance that it said applied “irrespective” of whether the offending comments were made in Hong Kong or abroad.35

Foreign journalists and media outlets have also faced forms of online intimidation that are more difficult to trace back to the Chinese government, but the circumstantial ties are clear, and these abuses are no less problematic in terms of the psychological and financial pressures they entail.

One tactic that increased in frequency and aggressiveness during the coverage period was the use of coordinated online harassment campaigns on global social media platforms to attack journalists working for news outlets based in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. The campaigns tended to target women of East Asian, including ethnic Chinese, descent, and they were often catalyzed by Chinese state media reports or other official comments that called out the affected individuals by name. Pro-Beijing trolls not only disparage the journalists’ coverage but, according to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, also “make crude sexual innuendos, including alarming threats of physical violence.”36 One Chinese American journalist who writes for the New Yorker published an account of her experience with such cyberbullying during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City; the online trolls mocked her for being separated from her elderly mother, who was housed at a nursing facility where death rates were high.37 Chinese-Australian researcher Vicky Xu of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute became the target of a similar campaign after coauthoring a report that documented the use of forced labor by Uyghurs in China to produce goods for export.38 In addition to these examples from countries where tensions with China have intensified since 2019, journalists or commentators in France, Italy, Spain, and the Philippines also encountered online verbal abuse from pro-CCP trolls.

Coordinated online harassment campaigns from pro-Beijing trolls, especially against female journalists of East Asian descent, have increased since 2019.

In seven countries, meanwhile, news outlets or journalists suffered from cyberattacks that could be reasonably linked to China.39 In March 2021, a well-known China-based hacking group gained entry to the servers of the Times of India, one of the most widely read English-language newspapers in the world, and transferred data to an off-site server. Cybersecurity researchers who investigated the breach suggested that the attackers’ motivation was “some combination of wanting to know who is talking to the media and wanting to know ahead of time what people are reporting on.”40 In a similar attack discovered in January 2022 but believed to have been ongoing since 2020, hackers broke into the networks of the News Corporation media group, targeting the Wall Street Journal and New York Post in the United States and the Times and Sunday Times in the United Kingdom. The intruders, who were believed to be tied to Chinese intelligence services, sought to “access reporters’ emails and Google Docs, including drafts of articles.”41 More openly disruptive forms of cyberattack, such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, have targeted overseas Tibetan and Chinese-language websites that are critical of the CCP, especially during politically sensitive periods, temporarily disabling their websites and increasing costs for what are already cash-strapped outlets.42

The frequency and caliber of these cyberattacks increase the financial burden on outlets to improve their defenses, and hacking that involves data theft could put journalists and their sources at risk. If no back-up exists for a breached server or website, which is more likely at smaller, Chinese-language diaspora outlets, the most destructive digital attacks could permanently erase content that was critical of the Chinese government.

 

Preemptive self-censorship by media and businesses

The CCP has become sufficiently adept and prolific with its pressure tactics and reprisals over even minor slights that media owners, editors, and local officials will in many cases act preemptively to suppress coverage or silence critical speech, without the need for the Chinese embassy or state-linked hackers to intervene.

In 17 of the 30 countries in this study, there was evidence—uncovered through content analysis or interviews with current and former journalists—that media outlets suppressed, avoided, or reframed coverage of news events in China, such as human rights violations, or of Chinese investment projects and related political scandals in their home countries. Most outlets that engaged in such self-censorship had owners with financial interests in China or other ties to Chinese entities. The incidents occurred in countries as varied as Argentina, Brazil, Peru, South Africa, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

According to interviewees in Nigeria, outlets whose editors or publishers had a relationship with the Chinese embassy tended to “soften” reporters’ writing when they produced unfavorable articles. In Taiwan, editors and executives at outlets owned by businessmen with investments in China suppressed stories about human rights or other issues that disfavor the Chinese government.43 A 2019 survey of 149 Taiwanese journalists found that nearly 50 percent of the respondents had been ordered by their company or supervisor to reduce reports on sensitive issues related to China.44 Following Panama’s 2017 transfer of diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China and ahead of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s 2018 visit to the country, journalists at some Panamanian outlets were encouraged by their editors to avoid covering topics that might upset advertisers like Huawei or local businesses that appeared likely to benefit from Chinese investment. One journalist said, “I was told at the time to be less harsh on reporting [about China] because there is a danger they will pull advertising. This came from upper management.”45

Corporate self-censorship in the media sector was not limited to news pages, but also affected sports, fashion, and advertising content in the countries under study during the coverage period. In the United States, news reports described a leaked memorandum from a senior manager at the sports network ESPN—which has a digital partnership with the Chinese social media conglomerate Tencent and its popular QQSports platform46 —that explicitly discouraged political discussion about China and Hong Kong in late 2019, after general manager Daryl Morey of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets publicly expressed support for prodemocracy protests in the territory.47 In Taiwan, Chinese authorities and pro-Beijing internet users coerced Taiwanese businesses and celebrities into self-censoring or taking sides on Taiwan’s status by warning that they could face financial penalties or lose Chinese market share, advertising revenue, or contracts.48 And in the United Kingdom, the British edition of GQ magazine removed Xi Jinping from its list of worst-dressed leaders after managers reportedly intervened.49

Media workers’ brave responses have set a benchmark for colleagues and forced Chinese representatives to answer for their bullying.

However, media owners and executives are not alone in their wariness of threats and economic reprisals from Beijing. In 16 countries, individual journalists or commentators reported engaging in self-censorship of their own. In Chile, opinion leaders explained that they preferred not to address sensitive topics or criticize China because they fear it might impact their opportunities in the country or cause them trouble when they try to do business there.50 For others, especially among diaspora communities, self-censorship is motivated more by a fear of physical reprisals against themselves or their families. Some Chinese-Australian journalists who work in the mainstream English-language media use pseudonyms when publishing articles that are critical of the CCP to avoid government pressure on their families in China. In Malaysia, six different reporters from multiple Chinese-language outlets refused to be interviewed for this study, even off the record. Most of those around the world who did agree to interviews—Chinese and non-Chinese alike—requested anonymity.

 

The power of a free press

Despite the aggression and persistence with which the Chinese government and its proxies have sought to suppress unfavorable reporting and commentary abroad, their efforts have notably failed in many cases. Journalists and editors at the receiving end of Beijing’s threats have often refused to buckle and instead exposed the pressure, triggering a public and political backlash that led to greater awareness of the CCP’s underhanded attempts to manipulate information. Examples of such resistance in France, Israel, and Ghana involved an op-ed published by a Uyghur exile leader, morning talk-show comments about the regime’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, and a political cartoon mocking Xi Jinping.

In at least 11 of the 30 countries under study, a journalist or researcher exposed behind-the-scenes pressure from Beijing regarding China-related content. In some instances they received support from their own governments, but even without such political cover, media workers’ brave responses have set a benchmark for colleagues and forced Chinese representatives to answer for their bullying.

Other journalists have found less public ways to thwart censorship and self-censorship. In Taiwan, for example, employees have responded to self-censorship pressure inside their media outlets by adopting creative strategies of “internal” and “everyday resistance.” This could mean filing complaints within the company or simply disobeying instructions to remove or rewrite content.51

However they manage to do so, many journalists and media outlets around the world have clearly continued to churn out news and analysis that the CCP would likely censor if it could. This is a testament to the resilience of a free press in the face of Beijing’s authoritarian belligerence.

 


 

WRITTEN BY
Sarah Cook
Chengdu, China — Chinese journalists stand by their video cameras during the G20 High-level Tax Symposium, part of the G20 finance ministers meeting in Chengdu, in China's Sichuan province on July 23, 2016. Photo by Fred Dufour/AFP via Getty Images.
Chengdu, China — Chinese journalists stand by their video cameras during the G20 High-level Tax Symposium, part of the G20 finance ministers meeting in Chengdu, in China's Sichuan province on July 23, 2016. 

 

Infiltrating Traditional Media

The Crucial Role of Local Partners in the Spread of Chinese State Content

Over the past decade, the Chinese regime has expanded its investment in the ability of state-run outlets to reach global audiences. Content from key outlets including China Global Television Network (CGTN), China Radio International (CRI), and China Daily is now disseminated via satellite and cable television broadcasts, shortwave transmissions, and print and online platforms around the world. A lack of data makes it difficult to determine how much of this direct dissemination is actually connecting with the target populations. Anecdotal and qualitative observations indicate that its impact is meaningful only in a few select countries.

However, direct dissemination is not the only means by which Chinese state media deliver their content to foreign news consumers. Indeed, one of the key findings of this study is that the content is reaching vast audiences of readers and viewers with the assistance of local partners, whether through content-sharing agreements or coproductions with mainstream outlets, appearances by Chinese diplomats in national media, or the repetition of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) talking points by local proxies. These tactics enable Beijing to inject its preferred content and narratives into the news sources that foreign audiences are already accessing daily—in many cases without clear labeling or context.

Chinese officials refer to such techniques as “borrowing the boat to reach the sea” (借船出海). They have long been a part of the CCP’s foreign propaganda arsenal, but their utilization has expanded and evolved significantly over the past three years.

Even as new partnerships and allies have emerged, Chinese state media and officials have encountered obstacles, including skepticism about the credibility of their content, as they seek to increase their influence over news coverage related to China. Taken together, these dynamics highlight the critical role of individual choices by local actors—media owners, editors, journalists, and opinion leaders—in either magnifying or checking the reach and impact of Beijing’s campaign to penetrate the international media landscape.

The scope and strategies of content placement

The effort by Chinese state news outlets and other CCP-linked entities to disseminate their content in foreign media is massive in its scale. In most cases, the content is created by Chinese state media and then published without any editorial changes by a local print, online, television, or radio outlet. The research for this study found content placements by Beijing-backed entities in over 130 news outlets across the 30 countries examined. Many of the outlets that aired or published this content were among the most influential and widely accessed in each country. In 24 of the 30 countries, Chinese state media content was found to have appeared in a range of geographically or politically diverse outlets, as opposed to only those with ties to one political party or a small, marginal readership.

Individual choices by local actors—media owners, editors, journalists, and opinion leaders—play a critical role in either magnifying or checking the impact of Beijing’s campaign to penetrate the international media landscape.

The agreements surrounding the content placements vary. They encompass long-term provision of free content, including wire copy from news agencies such as Xinhua or China News Service; regular paid advertorials; and one-off commemorative features sponsored by the Chinese embassy. Less common but still evident in 12 of the 30 countries under study were coproduction arrangements in which the Chinese side provided technical support or resources to aid reporting in or on China by their foreign counterparts in exchange for a degree of editorial control over the finished product.

Given the CCP’s heavy control over domestic media in China, none of the Beijing-backed content providers are objective or unbiased. The party maintains tight oversight of state-owned outlets in China, especially since a bureaucratic restructuring in 2018 placed them directly under the management of its Central Propaganda Department.52 Content produced by these outlets prioritizes careful alignment with Beijing’s preferred narratives over fact-based journalism, and it has sometimes been used specifically to drown out independent and critical reporting on the Chinese regime. Outlets like national state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) have been mobilized to defame political targets or whitewash the CCP’s human rights record, including by airing blatantly false reports.53 CCTV and its international arm, CGTN, faced repercussions in the United Kingdom and Australia during this report’s 2019–21 coverage period for broadcasting forced confessions by prisoners in China.54

Despite their record of shaping coverage to serve Beijing’s interests, Chinese state media outlets signed new content agreements or upgraded and renewed previous deals in at least 16 of the 30 countries under study during the coverage period. This proliferation of partnerships is no accident. Chinese state media and other entities have made an aggressive push for new and upgraded agreements, constantly seeking opportunities to piggyback on the market share of local media. As one former editorial director from France noted, “The commercial strategy is very aggressive, with very low prices.”55 In some settings, such as Argentina and Italy, new partnerships coincided with the country joining Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. Elsewhere, the Chinese entities worked to make their content more affordable or attractive, for example when the official Xinhua news agency offered a two-month free trial for access to its translated articles in Indonesia.56 Several new regional or global cooperation initiatives were also launched or upgraded, such as the Belt and Road News Network, the Asia News Network, the China-Latin America and Caribbean Media Action project, and an Africa-focused partnership that encompassed outlets in dozens of countries with stated goals like “exchange of content, exchange of staff, and coproduction.”57 While these relationships may appear reciprocal, in practice Chinese state media rarely commission pieces from their foreign partners for publication in China.

Chinese state media and other entities have made an aggressive push for new content placement agreements, constantly seeking opportunities to piggyback on the market share of local media.

The partnerships are not driven solely by well-known Chinese state media outlets like China Daily, Xinhua, CRI, or CGTN. Rather, a wide range of other Chinese state-linked entities have emerged as content providers and partners to foreign news outlets. These include the China International Television Corporation, which focuses on entertainment content; the Radio and Television Administration of China, a regulatory body; and subnational or thematic outlets like the Economic Daily, Macau’s public broadcaster, or provincial television stations in Fujian and Sichuan. Chinese embassies and China-based companies with close CCP ties like Huawei and Alibaba were also found to be engaging in paid and unpaid content dissemination via foreign media outlets. In the Chinese-language space, the State Council Information Office, Hong Kong’s state-owned newspaper Wei Wen Po, and various provincial propaganda departments similarly served as content providers.

Three subsets of these many agreements or content placements are notable for their relatively high impact. First, partnerships between a Chinese provider and a local news agency or syndication service emerged as a crucial avenue for large-scale content dissemination. In these cases, the local partner acts as a natural amplifier, circulating Xinhua, CGTN, or other Chinese state media content in its newswire for use by a network of local, regional, or global outlets.58 This type of partnership was found in 18 of the 30 countries. For example, Xinhua has a long-standing cooperation agreement with Spain’s EFE news agency, whose content is syndicated across Spanish-language outlets worldwide.59 While EFE also produces its own independent reporting on China, it has effectively boosted CCP propaganda narratives and content. In countries as diverse as Ghana, Italy, South Africa, and Indonesia, influential newswire services regularly used Xinhua content, which was then picked up by other outlets.

Second, in less democratic countries such as Kuwait and Mozambique, where the local government tends to have relatively strong influence over the domestic media sector, content partnerships with publicly funded outlets were especially important and impactful. Moreover, in Peru, Argentina, and Ghana, Chinese entities signed new agreements that expanded their previous foothold in the state-owned media sector to encompass privately owned outlets as well, including those focused on finance or business news, which are often receptive to Beijing’s economic messaging.

Third, CCP-backed content providers have made considerable progress in placing material in local broadcast media. Given the potency and popularity of television and radio in many countries, as well as the paucity of content labeling in those formats, the potential reach and impact of such content placements are arguably greater than with print publications.

Chinese state-linked programming can appear as one-off coproductions or special culture-themed features—like “Chinese TV week” in Tunisia, a Chinese New Year special in Panama, or a documentary on poverty alleviation that was briefly broadcast in California. But it can also take the form of regularly scheduled programming, such as a weekday news slot on Kenya’s national broadcaster, the daily segment “Mundo China” on the Brazilian station BandNews, and almost-daily morning broadcasts on Metro TV, one of Indonesia’s largest stations.60 In several countries—including Israel and Italy—CRI correspondents fluent in the local language became media personalities in their own right, appearing on primetime talk shows as commentators addressing China-related topics.61 Audience data for the Beijing-backed programs was difficult to obtain, but the mere fact that they are aired on otherwise popular stations increases the likelihood of viewership compared with what Chinese state media might achieve on their own.

Partnerships between a Chinese provider and a local news agency or syndication service are a crucial avenue for large-scale content dissemination.

One last form of content placement is worth noting for the frequency with which it is used: ambassadorial op-eds. Publishing an opinion piece in a local newspaper is a common form of public diplomacy, offering a country’s envoys an opportunity to present their government’s perspective on local or global topics. Nevertheless, the abundance of articles written by Beijing’s representatives is unusual. In 22 of the 30 countries examined, the Chinese ambassador or other officials published 10 or more op-eds within a three-year period.

In Argentina, Mexico, Nigeria, and South Africa, especially prolific diplomats published 30, 40, or even over 50 articles in local outlets, for an average of more than one a month. In most cases, the articles were not limited to a single outlet but rather were published across a wide variety of platforms. In some cases they were tied to specific content-sharing agreements. In 2021, the Chinese embassy in Kuwait became the sole provider of content for a special bimonthly column in a daily newspaper.62 Such articles, while clearly labeled as coming from Chinese government representatives, allow them to speak to local audiences without the mediation of a critical journalist or interviewer. Although outlets occasionally published additional op-eds in which local or international commentators could respond to or challenge a Chinese ambassador, this was a relatively rare occurrence.

While many of the content-placement efforts described above involve offerings of free material or ostensibly reciprocal news-exchange agreements, others entail Chinese state media, embassies, and China-based companies simply paying outlets or journalists to publish content. In a number of the countries assessed, there were examples of Chinese entities or their proxies providing monetary compensation for the production or dissemination of articles. In most cases, the precise amount of money changing hands is unknown. However, thanks to publicly available filings in the United States, it is clear that China Daily spent at least $7 million during the coverage period to disseminate its content via advertorial inserts in mainstream national and regional newspapers across the country.63 In Israel, CRI paid the public broadcaster $230,000 to fund the coproduction of a series of short video segments about China.64 These figures give some indication of the significant investments that the Chinese regime is making. The paid content can reach potentially massive audiences, taking advantage of the circulation of newspapers and wire services that are read by millions of people. The telecommunications firm Huawei has also had paid content deals with British outlets that draw a global readership, like the Reuters news agency and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).65

The extent to which Chinese state media content—paid or unpaid—is labeled as such varies widely. Paid content is usually presented either as an advertorial or as opinion and commentary, although labeling is inconsistent even within individual outlets. On the occasions when material is clearly identified as paid content, the Chinese government affiliation of the sponsor is not always spelled out, and the labeling may be in small print or otherwise visually obscure. In rare instances during this study’s coverage period, authorship information for pieces that were clearly propaganda was entirely absent.66 In the United States and Romania, scholars who were paid by Huawei authored articles urging market access for the company, and their compensation was only exposed after the fact.67 Cases of paid content from China being deliberately obscured were most commonly reported in Taiwan, where such placements are technically prohibited under Taiwanese law. An academic survey of 149 Taiwanese journalists in 2019 found that one-third of the respondents had at some point worked on projects involving cooperation with Chinese authorities on illegal embedded advertising.68

Paid content from Beijing-backed sources can reach potentially massive audiences, taking advantage of the circulation of newspapers and wire services that are read by millions of people.

Payments in kind were also offered in exchange for sympathetic coverage, and the details of such arrangements were often withheld from news consumers. Reporters, editors, or media executives from 29 of the 30 countries in this study traveled to China on subsidized trips and scholarship programs during the coverage period, mostly prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020. Chinese technology companies and CCP propaganda entities continued to offer virtual press tours or workshop opportunities during the pandemic. Many participants reported perceiving an implicit or explicit expectation that they would subsequently publish articles favorable to the Chinese government. Indeed, in 19 countries, a journalist or media executive returning from a subsidized trip to China produced an article or public comments that repeated CCP talking points, often on controversial or contested topics such as conditions in Xinjiang or investment by companies like Huawei.

In Nigeria, one journalist who had traveled at the Chinese government’s expense subsequently started the Africa China Press Centre, which takes a pro-Beijing line and signed a content-sharing agreement with Xinhua in 2019.69 According to interviews with journalists in Kenya, the Chinese embassy also offered noncash benefits including smartphones, holiday shopping vouchers, and paid trips within Kenya through Chinese tour companies in exchange for favorable coverage of major events such regional summits or visits between senior Chinese and Kenyan officials.70

Selectivity and second thoughts among local media partners

While content-sharing agreements are often signed with great fanfare, the local media partners do not always implement them as intended by Chinese officials.

Among the 30 countries in this study, 26 were found to have outlets publishing content based on existing agreements with Chinese counterparts, but on the whole it remained unusual for Chinese state content to have a large presence in local news feeds. In most outlets in the countries examined, pro-Beijing content and narratives did not dominate news related to China or other relevant topics. One of the few exceptions was in Mexico, where free content from the CCP mouthpiece People’s Daily that was republished online by the mainstream outlet Reforma was considered by several experts to be one of the leading sources of news on China in the country.71

Local editors and journalists in many countries were judicious in their utilization of Chinese state media content. In Kenya and Senegal, for example, editors selectively chose articles or themes—such as Chinese culture, entertainment, or food—in which the Chinese state affiliation seemed less likely to undermine the quality or independence of reporting. In 27 of the 30 countries, news outlets that had published Chinese state content were also found to have published more critical or unfavorable news about the Chinese government’s policies at home or in the country in question, indicating that their readers still received relatively balanced and diverse coverage overall.

Despite many content placements, in most of the countries examined, pro-Beijing content and narratives did not dominate news related to China.

Moreover, despite the aggressiveness of Beijing’s campaign and the cash-strapped state of traditional media in most countries, a growing number of outlets have discontinued previous content-sharing, advertorial, coproduction, and programming agreements with Chinese state media since 2019. This phenomenon was evident in 10 of the 30 countries, and it included major global outlets in the United States and United Kingdom—the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Daily Telegraph—as well as outlets in France, Poland, and the Philippines. In Colombia and Chile, outlets that had completed a trial period or had sporadically published Xinhua content declined the opportunity to establish a long-term agreement.

These decisions to wind down cooperation were often made quietly, but they were apparent in the output of the outlets in question. Several factors seem to have contributed to the moves, including increased reputational risk after the amount of funding from Chinese sources was made public; a sense that misleading content related to COVID-19, Xinjiang, or Hong Kong was not fit for publication; or a broader worsening in bilateral relations during the COVID-19 pandemic that made partnerships less acceptable to domestic audiences. In some cases, civil society activity played a critical role: Australia’s public broadcaster stopped airing CCTV and CGTN content after a complaint from the human rights group Safeguard Defenders explained how those outlets had aired detainee confessions that were obtained through torture.72

Lastly, with a small number of exceptions, the propaganda effects of subsidized travel or other perks for journalists appeared to be either short-lived or more complex than simple co-optation. In many cases, journalists’ pro-Beijing reports following travel to China appeared to be one-off items. Some journalists expressed skepticism in surveys and interviews about what they had seen on sponsored trips to China. Others voiced appreciation for the opportunity to visit China and a desire to relay positive sentiments regarding the country’s people and culture, but did not necessarily extend these warm feelings to the CCP regime. A Ghanaian journalist described the experience of sponsored travel as follows: “They only want you to see their perspective, how things are done there.… They wanted you to learn about their system, but you know, it confirms what you’ve been hearing about the oppressive system of the Chinese government.”73 

WRITTEN BY Sarah Cook
A screenshot of the China Radio International's Sinhala Facebook page. Taken in August 2022.
A screenshot of the China Radio International's Sinhala Facebook page. Taken in August 2022. 

 

Harnessing Social Media

Amplification and Deception on Popular Global Platforms 

Expanding the presence of Chinese state media and diplomatic accounts on global social media platforms has been a highly visible priority of Beijing’s foreign propaganda investment over the past five years, even as the same platforms remain blocked in China. Hundreds of new accounts belonging to embassies, consulates, and individual Chinese envoys have been created since 2019,74 targeting 26 of the 30 countries examined in this study. Accounts run by major state media outlets like People’s Daily, the Xinhua news agency, China Global Television Network (CGTN), and China Radio International (CRI) have appeared in multiple languages and garnered tens of millions of followers worldwide.

However, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) appears unwilling to rely solely on the quality, scale, or local focus of its propaganda output to attract foreign audiences organically. Local social media influencers have reportedly been paid to promote the party’s favored narratives in their respective countries, and the authenticity of the follower counts associated with Beijing’s social media presence has come into question.75 Media investigations have revealed that several Chinese government bodies paid millions of dollars to private companies to create fake accounts, which then pushed out positive content overseas or generated followers for state-linked accounts.76

The regime has also used networks of fake accounts to mount disinformation campaigns and otherwise spread falsehoods on global platforms, potentially distorting public discourse and challenging fact-based journalism in countries around the world. 

Stylistic variation and linguistic diversity

In recent years, Chinese state media have created accounts on major global platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube and produced content in a diverse set of languages, including Romanian, Kiswahili, Hebrew, and Sinhala.77 Chinese state media content was found in at least one of the dominant local languages in all 30 of the countries assessed for this report. In many countries, more than one language was used.

Not all such accounts have achieved a significant local following, meaningful user engagement, or visible impact on the media landscape. However, some do post frequently and receive genuine user engagement. In Panama, for example, ambassador Wei Qiang has engaged with opinion leaders, journalists, and ordinary users in fluent Spanish.78 Local users in Brazil commented frequently on former ambassador Yang Wanming’s Twitter account before his posting in the country ended.79 In 12 countries, Chinese state media or diplomatic accounts had garnered 100,000 or more followers.80 In Kenya, India, France, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and the United States, the total number of followers exceeded one million. A portion, perhaps a large portion, of those followers may be fake, but activity on the pages seemed to indicate at least some authentic engagement, with users responding to a mixture of cultural content, clickbait, and political news.81

With respect to Chinese diplomatic accounts, a clear variation in style was evident. Ambassadors and other diplomats in France, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Spain, and Poland were quintessential “wolf warriors”—practitioners of a pugnacious, jingoistic form of diplomacy that may be designed to garner attention back in China. By contrast, diplomatic accounts in Kenya, Panama, and India were more subdued and genuinely engaged with local users. The latter accounts also tended to be more effective at winning local sympathy, whereas “wolf warriors” faced pushback from users and some governments.

Still, in multiple countries across all geographic regions, authentic user engagement and virality often involved mockery or criticism of posts published by a Chinese diplomatic account. In India, many comments on the Twitter posts of ambassador Sun Weidong, who has 90,000 followers, feature criticism of bilateral tensions, China’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic, or CCP rule in Tibet.82

China Radio International’s social media leadership

Among Chinese state media outlets, CRI stands out for the relative success of its social media strategy, particularly on Facebook. Accounts run directly by CRI, by CRI reporters, or by influencers with explicit or hidden affiliations with CRI have millions of followers globally. In many cases, CRI-linked pages enjoy considerable authentic engagement with local users. These achievements can be attributed to the broadcaster’s efforts at localization, such as its use of local languages and journalists or influencers who produce more locally relevant content. Furthermore, because most CRI pages are on Facebook and were set up years before the recent diplomatic expansion on Twitter, some have been gaining followers for more than five years. In 12 of the 30 countries under study, CRI social media accounts had over 100,000 followers. CRI’s Facebook pages in Bengali, Tamil, Tagalog, Sinhala, Hausa, and Kiswahili have more than a million followers each.83

China Radio International stands out for the relative success of its social media strategy.

In some countries, such as Israel and Italy, the local CRI correspondents are highly active and charismatic, garnering hundreds of thousands of followers or viewers on their social media accounts.84 Other employees at CRI who act more as cultural or lifestyle influencers target users in Nigeria, India, and Sri Lanka through their Facebook pages, which are labeled as state controlled.85 Some of the success of these accounts may be attributable to advertising campaigns; in Sri Lanka, an investigation revealed that Chinese state media accounts were running ads on Facebook targeting Sri Lankan audiences in 2020 and 2021, a period that coincided with a leap in their number of followers.86

Other Chinese state media outlets have adopted similar techniques, reflecting a top-down push for state media journalists to create personal brands to spread propaganda.87 In France, several popular CGTN reporters have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media platforms, posting in French about cultural, lifestyle, or culinary topics while also promoting the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei or spreading misleading information about the pandemic.88

Unaffiliated accounts and paid influencers

In response to new efforts by global social media platforms to label state-affiliated accounts as well as general public skepticism toward content known to originate with the Chinese government, Chinese state media and other official actors have adapted by creating seemingly unaffiliated accounts that publish pro-Beijing content and narratives. For example, a Kiswahili Facebook page in Kenya with 35,000 followers obscures its ties to CRI and posts videos of people from East Africa making positive remarks about Chinese engagement in the region.89

In the United States, Chinese officials attempted to pay or otherwise cooperate with existing influencers who would post videos echoing pro-Beijing talking points to their usual followers.90 Many such efforts were linked to the Chinese government’s push to undermine the credibility of documentation showing mass detentions and atrocities against Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang. In one case that was exposed through investigative reporting, vloggers from the United States and other English-speaking countries either participated in such a campaign or rejected and publicized the offer.91 YouTubers from Israel and the United Kingdom have also produced pro-CCP videos about Xinjiang while obscuring the support they had received from the regime.92

Chinese state media have created seemingly unaffiliated accounts that publish pro-Beijing content and narratives.

In Taiwan, social media influencers have been sought out by Chinese state-linked entities offering online and in-person trainings. The programs are meant to teach them how to expand their audiences and create polished videos, with a likely implicit expectation that they would promote Beijing’s narratives. This tactic could be replicated globally in the future, echoing the existing practice of subsidized journalist trainings in China and creating a façade of grassroots support for the CCP’s perspectives.93

Phony amplification and disinformation campaigns

There was evidence in 15 of the 30 countries examined of inauthentic behavior and amplification, associated with both clearly Beijing-affiliated and ostensibly unaffiliated accounts and posts. Examples of diplomatic accounts being artificially amplified were found in several of the countries in this study—including the United States, the United Kingdom, India, and South Africa—according to an investigation conducted by the Associated Press and the Oxford Internet Institute.94 In these cases, networks of fake accounts boosted the posts of the Chinese diplomats with shares and likes.

Multiple investigations and research studies in recent years have also revealed disinformation campaigns linked to China. For this project, disinformation was defined as the purposeful dissemination of false or misleading content, including through inauthentic activity—via fake accounts, for example—on global social media platforms. In all 30 countries, Chinese officials or state media were found to have promoted falsehoods, often through their social media accounts. This phenomenon has intensified since 2019, as many accounts shared blatantly misleading narratives to counter negative global attention on the Chinese government in connection with the prodemocracy protests in Hong Kong, rights abuses in Xinjiang, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Examples of such content included the false claims that COVID-19 originated in Fort Detrick in the United States,95 that the imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong helped uphold the rule of law,96 and that Ukraine is rife with Nazis.97

The first known case of a China-linked campaign using networks of fake accounts to spread disinformation appeared in late 2018 in Taiwan.98 Since then, the practice has become a standard tool in Beijing’s media influence toolbox. Many documented campaigns are global in scope, and in 13 countries examined in this study, local media outlets or influencer accounts were found to have knowingly or unknowingly shared a post from such a campaign.99

More targeted campaigns appeared in a smaller subset of nine countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Italy, Romania, Australia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. Multiple campaigns were documented in the United States, and in Taiwan there was an almost constant barrage. Many campaigns involved efforts to manipulate news and information related to Chinese domestic human rights abuses or Beijing’s foreign policy priorities. But there was also a disconcerting trend of meddling in the domestic politics of the target country.

The most serious examples of this interference occurred in Taiwan, particularly in the periods surrounding 2018 local elections and the January 2020 general elections.100 Beijing’s efforts to influence the 2020 presidential contest, including through disinformation campaigns, failed when incumbent Tsai Ing-wen was reelected in a landslide. Since then, dozens of Taiwan-focused disinformation campaigns linked to Beijing have been detected monthly across platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Line, and YouTube, with many narratives aimed at discrediting the democratically elected government and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Multiple China-linked disinformation campaigns were documented in the United States, and in Taiwan there was an almost constant barrage.

The campaigns documented in the United States appeared to have little impact, but they reflect a degree of investment in this tactic on the part of Beijing-linked actors that was not evident prior to 2019. Thousands of fake accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube were detected and shuttered for engaging in inauthentic manipulation efforts on topics including events within China and Hong Kong, US relations with Taiwan,101 and smears aimed at US-based critics of the CCP.102 The campaigns also touched on domestic issues, experimenting with content that muddied the waters on subjects such as the US government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,103 racial tensions,104 and US political divisions surrounding the 2020 elections.105

Nearly four years after the first campaign was detected, China-linked disinformation campaigns are clearly a recurring, persistent tactic, though their impact to date should not be overstated. While forensic analysis of the campaigns indicates that their implementers are adapting, improving evasive techniques, and creating more convincing persona accounts in multiple countries, their content has not had a substantial effect on public debate or succeeded in creating significant new discord, distrust, or confusion.

More broadly, since 2019, the CCP’s social media influence tactics have undergone rapid changes in strategy, with a turn toward more covert forms of influence and a focus on a broader set of topics that are not directly related to China. This pattern is likely to continue, reinforcing the need for ongoing efforts by governments, technology firms, and independent researchers to enhance transparency and rapidly detect inauthentic activity.

Footnotes

Beijing’s Global Media Influence: Country Reports 2022 | Freedom House

Beijing's Global Media Influence 2022
Country Reports
 

Argentina

  • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

    41 85 High
  • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

    38 85 Notable

 

Australia

  • AVENUES OF INFLUENCE

    38 85 High
  • RESILIENCE AND RESPONSE

    68 85 Very High
  •  

    Brazil

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      35 85 Notable
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      46 85 High

     

    Chile

    • AVENUES OF INFLUENCE

      37 85 High
    • RESILIENCE AND RESPONSE

      45 85 High

     

    Colombia

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      29 85 Low
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      38 85 Notable

     

    France

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      36 85 High
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      63 85 Very High

     

    Ghana

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      29 85 Low
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      25 85 Low

     

    India

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      31 85 Notable
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      40 85 Notable

    Indonesia

     

     
    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      39 85 High
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      41 85 High

     

    Israel

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      23 85 Low
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      43 85 High

     

    Italy

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      43 85 High
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      45 85 High

     

    Kenya

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      42 85 High
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      38 85 Notable

     

    Kuwait

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      30 85 Notable
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      31 85 Low

     

    Malaysia

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      37 85 High
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      35 85 Notable

     

    Mexico

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      35 85 Notable
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      34 85 Notable

     

    Mozambique

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      31 85 Notable
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      25 85 Low

     

    Nigeria

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      47 85 Very High
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      33 85 Notable

     

    Panama

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      32 85 Notable
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      30 85 Low

     

    Peru

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      39 85 High
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      39 85 Notable

     

    Philippines

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      41 85 High
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      50 85 High
    Poland

     

    Poland

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      31 85 Notable
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      48 85 High

     

    Romania

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      31 85 Notable
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      39 85 Notable

     

    Senegal

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      32 85 Notable
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      24 85 Low

     

    South Africa

    • AVENUES OF INFLUENCE

      38 85 High
    • RESILIENCE AND RESPONSE

      58 85 Very High

     

    Spain

    • AVENUES OF INFLUENCE

      45 85 High
    • RESILIENCE AND RESPONSE

      45 85 High

     

    Sri Lanka

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      34 85 Notable
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      27 85 Low

     

    Taiwan

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      55 85 Very High
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      74 85 Very High

     

    Tunisia

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      25 85 Low
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      33 85 Notable

     

    United Kingdom

    • BEIJING’S MEDIA INFLUENCE EFFORTS

      53 85 Very High
    • LOCAL RESILIENCE & RESPONSE

      66 85 Very High

     

    United States

    • AVENUES OF INFLUENCE

      53 85 Very High
    • RESILIENCE AND RESPONSE

      72 85 Very High

    Beijing’s Global Media Influence: Recommendations 2022 | Freedom House

    Beijing's Global Media Influence 2022
     
    Long-term democratic resilience to Beijing’s media influence will require a coordinated response across a variety of sectors. Governments, media outlets, civil society, and technology firms all have an essential role to play in protecting freedom of expression and access to information in the face of increasingly aggressive Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence efforts, while ensuring adherence to democratic norms and international human rights standards. Here are Freedom House's global policy recommendations from the Beijing's Global Media Influence report.
     

    For Media

    • Protect and expand independent coverage of China. Media outlets should increase efforts to produce independent coverage and investigative reporting on their countries’ bilateral relations with China, China-linked economic investment, Beijing’s foreign influence, human rights conditions in China, and other topics of concern to the local population. They should ask challenging questions during interviews with Chinese diplomats and offer opportunities for critics of the Chinese government to air their views. Media owners and editors should avoid suppressing unfavorable reports related to China. Media outlets should increase newsroom diversity and ensure coverage of different perspectives within the Chinese diaspora, immigrant, and exile communities.
    • Revisit content-sharing agreements. Media outlets and journalists’ unions should discontinue content-sharing partnerships, contracts for paid advertorials, and memorandums of understanding with Chinese state media entities, Chinese embassies, and the government-affiliated All-China Journalists Association. New agreements of this kind should be avoided. Outlets that decide to continue publishing content from Chinese sources should negotiate contracts that allow for editorial review and the discretion to reject any content that is false, misleading, or harmful. Media outlets should clearly label the state-linked origin of content published via paid advertorials or other partnership agreements, including on television and radio.
    • Increase transparency regarding pressure tactics and cooperation agreements. Media outlets should publicly expose any pressure or intimidation they receive from Chinese officials, the Hong Kong authorities, or companies with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). They should disclose any content-sharing agreements or financial compensation for placement of Chinese state media content, commissioned articles, or diplomats’ commentary.
    • Enhance journalistic training and ethical standards. Media outlets and journalists’ unions should provide training for investigative reporting as well as ethical guidelines on best practices for coverage of China and the use of Chinese state-produced content. Journalists, editors, and media executives should avoid the conflicts of interest associated with accepting cash, gifts, or other special favors from Chinese state-linked actors, whether or not there is an explicit request to publish positive articles about the CCP, its policies, or Chinese companies, and should publicly disclose the provision of any good or service that could be deemed a conflict of interest.

     

    For Governments

    • Preemptively expand and maximize safeguards. Even in countries where more aggressive CCP influence tactics have yet to emerge, democratic governments should establish a coordinator or task force that can facilitate interdepartmental responses to potential authoritarian influence campaigns, drawing in state institutions responsible for foreign affairs, electoral integrity, and investment screening, among other areas of work. Officials should also engage in discussions on China’s foreign media influence tactics with civil society, technology firms, media outlets, and other democratic governments.
    • Impose penalties for transgressions by Chinese officials. When CCP representatives engage in bullying, intimidation, or other pressure aimed at a country’s journalists and commentators, the government should respond promptly, for instance by issuing public statements of concern or diplomatic rebukes. In especially serious cases involving threats against journalists and their families, the government should consider declaring the perpetrators persona non grata. Governments should publicly condemn assaults on or obstruction of their countries’ media correspondents in China, including the delay or denial of visas, and continue to pursue the matter until a satisfactory resolution is reached.
    • End domestic attacks on the media and civil society. Of the 30 countries covered in this report, officials in 19 have increased their own attacks on free expression since 2019, and officials in 12 took measures specifically to suppress coverage that might be disfavored by the Chinese government. To strengthen democratic resilience, governments should end domestic pressure on the media, civil society, and individuals exercising the right to free expression. Governments should also refrain from misusing laws that regulate foreign investment to suppress independent outlets or organizations. They should ensure that any measures taken to restrict or counter malign CCP influence are proportionate, provide for due process, and otherwise adhere to international human rights law and standards.
    • Increase transparency surrounding Chinese state media activities. Governments should consider adopting transparency requirements for foreign state-owned propaganda outlets operating in their country. Legislative language and enforcement should improve public access to information about Chinese state media activities without casting suspicion on entire ethnic communities. Relevant laws should incorporate the advice of civil society experts and representatives of diaspora, immigrant, and exile communities to maximize their efficacy and avoid undue restrictions on fundamental rights. Appropriate regulations could include reporting requirements for foreign state media outlets’ spending on paid advertorials, their ownership and editorial structures, and other ties to the political leadership in their home countries.
    • Ensure fair enforcement of relevant media laws. Governments should adopt and enforce laws governing media ownership and mergers that enhance transparency, improve competition and diversity, and limit cross-ownership, such as regulations that prevent single entities from controlling both content production and distribution channels. Governments should protect the independence of media regulators and allow them to apply relevant laws impartially, without political or diplomatic interference.
    • Improve protections against defamation. Governments should decriminalize defamation and adopt anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) regulations to protect journalists, academics, and civil society activists from frivolous civil defamation suits aimed at silencing criticism of the CCP or other powerful interests.
    • Build safeguards against content manipulation by China-based apps and device makers: As mobile applications and devices produced by companies with close CCP ties gain global popularity, governments should take measures to detect and prevent any censorship or surveillance that might be facilitated by such products. Governments should hold hearings, introduce third-party risk assessment audits, and adopt laws that require companies to be more transparent on subjects including their content moderation, recommendation and algorithmic systems, collection and use of personal data, and targeted advertising practices, including for social media applications and browsers on mobile devices. Governments should also adopt strong data privacy laws that limit what information can be collected and how it can be used. Governments should avoid outright or arbitrary bans on China-based apps, as such restrictions run counter to the principles of internet freedom by obstructing the political, religious, and social expression of millions of users. 

     

    For Civil Society/Donors

    • Document and raise awareness of CCP influence efforts. Academic institutions, think tanks, and other civil society groups should build on existing work to research CCP influence efforts, including in the media sector. In the short term, they should investigate covert and coercive tactics and provide early-warning analysis ahead of elections, especially in countries that have previously faced targeted disinformation campaigns linked to China. Longer-term projects could include surveys of journalists and scholars regarding censorship pressures, detection of disinformation campaigns, tracking and analysis of Chinese diplomatic and state media content, or use of freedom of information laws to obtain details on public broadcasters’ collaboration with Chinese state media. Researchers should also pursue any evidence of collaboration between the local government and CCP officials that could result in violations of press freedom or human rights.
    • Use strategic advocacy to inform policymakers and build coalitions. Press freedom groups and think tanks should provide policymakers with advice on laws or regulations that would help address authoritarian media influence efforts without infringing on human rights. Civil society groups can also file complaints with regulators to prompt stronger oversight under existing laws. Civil society has an important role to play in building coordination mechanisms—at the national and international levels—that could develop common responses and share best practices among government entities, technology firms, academic experts, and others working in this field.
    • Improve reporting on China through funding, training, and networking opportunities. Professional training programs for journalists and other media workers should include background material on China and its regime as well as case studies on CCP propaganda and censorship tactics around the world. To compete with Beijing-backed junkets and training programs, democratic donors should sponsor journalist travel and networking opportunities, including engagement with Chinese human rights defenders and representatives of ethnic and religious groups that face persecution in China.
    • Strengthen media and digital literacy programs. Civil society should work with governments to strengthen media literacy programs and help the public to recognize and fact-check disinformation and propaganda. Programs tailored to improve expertise on China could provide background information on the different Chinese state media outlets and their ties to the CCP, examples of past disinformation campaigns, and China-based apps’ track record of surveillance and censorship within China. Such initiatives should include components that serve Chinese-language news consumers and equip them to identify problematic content on WeChat and other CCP-influenced information sources.
    • Increase research and funding to bolster independent Chinese-language media. Civil society groups should conduct further research to understand influence efforts that target the Chinese diaspora, immigrant, and exile communities and their media ecosystem. Support for independent Chinese-language media should include increased funding and training opportunities, digital security assistance to counter cyberattacks and phishing attempts, and exploration of alternative platforms and channels that would allow the Chinese diaspora to communicate outside of censored China-based apps.
    • Support investigative journalism and Chinese-language study. Donors should support investigative journalism, including features on newsworthy China-related topics within a given country. To enhance media expertise on China, they should provide opportunities for journalists, scholars, and think tank researchers to study the Chinese language or attend educational or journalism classes. They should also finance research dedicated to tracking self-censorship and other subtle pressures on media outlets. Any projects focused on supporting Chinese-language media should include those serving  diaspora, immigrant, and exile communities, or even provide dedicated funding for the latter.

     

    For Tech Companies

    • Label state-affiliated accounts. Social media platforms should consistently and comprehensively label accounts controlled by state media outlets and government officials, including Chinese state media and diplomats, to enhance transparency for users. Platforms should consult with civil society and media experts when determining which outlets reach the threshold of being state controlled. Advertising rights and other monetization opportunities should be restricted for accounts that have been labeled as state media.
    • Invest resources to counter online disinformation. Technology companies should identify, dismantle, and publicly expose disinformation campaigns, making it clear when such campaigns have links to state actors. Companies should also invest resources to monitor for campaigns in a variety of languages, in addition to English and Chinese. Company representatives should engage in continuous dialogue with local civil society organizations and experts, and communicate openly about any new policies they may be implementing to counter disinformation.
    • Ensure fair and transparent content moderation. Technology companies should clearly and concretely define what speech is not permissible, what aims such restrictions serve, and how the platform assesses content. They should ensure that content producers who are critical of the Chinese government do not face improper censorship, including through malicious reporting by pro-Beijing trolls for alleged terms-of-service violations. They should also ensure that automatic systems for flagging and removing content include meaningful human review.
    • Publish detailed transparency reports on content takedowns. Media and technology companies based inside or outside of China should publicly document content removals and shadow bans, whether they were initiated by governments or the companies themselves. Platforms should provide an efficient and timely avenue of appeal for users who believe that their rights were unduly restricted. Companies should ensure that content removal requests from governments are in compliance with international human rights standards, using all available channels to push back against problematic requests.

     

    For the United States

    In addition to the specific recommendations below, Freedom House urges governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders in the United States to implement the global policy recommendations included in this report.

    For media, civil society, businesses, and donors

    • Increase efforts to investigate CCP media influence in the United States. US media outlets should allocate additional resources for investigations into the scope and impact of CCP political and media influence efforts in the United States, including detection of emergent disinformation campaigns, transnational repression against exile and diaspora communities, and pressure from Chinese officials on policymakers at the state and local levels. Major outlets should also work to increase newsroom diversity and hire Chinese-speaking journalists and editors, including permitting them to use pseudonyms if necessary for security reasons.
    • Discontinue content-sharing agreements and public relations services. Mainstream media outlets in the United States should discontinue content-sharing partnerships and contracts for paid advertorials with Chinese state media entities and companies like Huawei. Outlets that continue publishing such content should screen for false or misleading narratives and clearly label it to indicate its Chinese government origin or the company’s links to the state. Public relations and communications firms should discontinue services or refuse new contracts for Chinese diplomats, entities with close CCP-ties like the China-US Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), and CCP-linked firms with problematic records of censorship and surveillance.
    • Support advocacy and capacity building. Philanthropists should expand support for civil society research, advocacy, training, and media literacy programs that enhance US resilience in the face of CCP influence efforts, including among Chinese speakers. Private resources for these activities are especially important given the limited availability of public funding.

     

     For the federal government

    • Enhance interagency and multistakeholder coordination. The federal government should expand recent efforts to improve interagency coordination related to China’s foreign media influence and targeted disinformation campaigns, particularly in advance of national and local elections. Civil society, technology firms, and media outlets should be routinely consulted on emerging trends and to coordinate effective responses.
    • Impose penalties for transgressions by Chinese officials. When CCP representatives—including Chinese diplomats in the United States—engage in bullying, intimidation, or other pressure aimed at local journalists and commentators, the US government should respond promptly, for instance by issuing public statements of concern or diplomatic rebukes. In especially serious cases involving threats against journalists and their families, the government should consider declaring the perpetrators persona non grata. US officials—at the highest levels—should publicly condemn assaults on or obstruction of correspondents from US media in China, including the delay or denial of visas, and continue to pursue the matter until a satisfactory resolution is reached.
    • Align US government designations of Chinese state media. The Department of Justice should examine each of the Chinese state media outlets that have been designated as foreign missions by the Department of State since 2020 to determine whether those outlets should also be registered under FARA. For newly registered Chinese state outlets such as China Global Television Network and Xinhua, the Department of Justice should enforce FARA filing requirements, including submission of details on content partnerships with US media, to the extent possible under current law.
    • Increase Chinese-language capacity. The federal government, with new funding from Congress, if necessary, should employ additional Chinese speakers at key US agencies that deal with CCP media influence.
    • Increase Congressional scrutiny of WeChat censorship and surveillance in the United States. Tencent’s WeChat application and the company’s politicized moderation and monitoring actions pose a serious threat to the privacy and free expression of millions of U.S. residents and citizens, particularly Chinese speakers. Yet, information available to the public and to U.S. policymakers about the full extent of this phenomenon is lacking. Congress should hold a hearing to shed greater light on the challenges experienced by users in the United States and include among witnesses Chinese activists and ordinary users who have encountered censorship on the platform in the United States, as well as executives from Tencent. Members of Congress should also write formal letters to Tencent asking explicit questions regarding its data protection, moderation, and official account policies as they relate to users in the United States.
    • When seeking to reduce the vulnerabilities to manipulation and surveillance posed by some apps, blanket bans on specific applications may do more harm than good: Recognizing both the potential threat posed by PRC-based applications like WeChat or ByteDance’s TikTok, but also the disproportionate restriction on freedom of expression that a blanket ban would entail, the US government should first explore other options for addressing the concerns raised by these applications, including: holding hearings, introducing third-party risk assessment audits, restricting usage on government or military devices, and adopting laws that require more transparency on company policies and practices, including their content moderation, recommendation and algorithmic systems, collection and use of personal data, and targeted advertising practices. Congress should also adopt stronger data privacy laws that limit what information can be collected and how it can be stored, used, and shared. In the current absence of a federal data privacy law, regulatory bodies like the Federal Trade Commission should explore what options exist for improving protections for Americans data under existing authority.
    Beijing's Global Media Influence 2022 
    Methodology
     
     

    The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plays a leading role in advancing global authoritarianism, including through efforts to shape and manipulate news and information. Beijing’s Global Media Influence (BGMI) is Freedom House’s first global assessment of CCP media influence and democratic resilience to that influence. Our research has identified the key methods by which the CCP and its proxies work to influence news coverage abroad. Scores determined according to a comprehensive methodology and qualitative country narratives assess these methods, their impact, and a country’s preparedness to safeguard against or respond to manipulation efforts.

    What We Study

    Beijing’s methods for shaping information environments around the globe are complex and often opaque. The BGMI project aims to reveal the many forms media influence from Beijing can take— ranging from acceptable forms of public diplomacy to covert, coercive, or corrupting tactics that risk undermining democratic freedoms.

    In conducting the research for this report, Freedom House identified five key strategies for CCP-linked foreign media influence efforts:

    • Propaganda and promotion of preferred narratives, including overt and covert, and direct and indirect avenues for transmitting Chinese state­–produced or influenced content to local audiences.
    • Disinformation campaigns, defined for the purposes of this report as the purposeful dissemination of false or misleading content, especially through inauthentic activity—via fake accounts, for example—on global social media platforms.
    • Censorship and intimidation, including restrictions placed on journalists in China that affect global news coverage, and coercive actions taken by Chinese state-linked actors to suppress or penalize critical reporting and commentary abroad.
    • Control over content-distribution infrastructure, primarily by China-based companies with state ownership or other close CCP ties, and a record of complicity in politicized censorship or surveillance within China or abroad.
    • Dissemination of CCP norms and governance model, such as training for foreign journalists and officials on CCP “news management” practices, or export of website-filtering equipment.

    The project also examines direct responses to CCP media influence in each country under review, and its underlying resilience or vulnerability to problematic influence or manipulation efforts emanating from Beijing. Relevant factors considered include laws and practices that protect press freedom, the extent of critical and diverse news coverage related to China and Chinese investment in the local economy, and both generic and China-specific initiatives by governments and civil society to counter disinformation, screen investments in media and digital industries, enhance transparency, and protect press freedom and freedom of expression.

    The BGMI methodology was created by Freedom House in consultation with international experts on media freedom and regulation, CCP foreign influence, disinformation, the Chinese diaspora, and the regions of the world under study. The resulting framework captures a vast array of issues related to understanding Beijing’s media influence and potential country responses through the lens of upholding freedom of expression and human rights.

    Country Selection

    The 30 countries included in this study were selected based on several criteria. First, as a study not only of Beijing’s influence efforts but also of the response and impact in democratic settings, the sample for this project was limited to countries that are rated Free or Partly Free by Freedom House’s Freedom in the World index. Second, to achieve a robust global analysis we sought a diverse sample in terms of geography (six regions covered), language (over 25 local languages), and nature of bilateral relations with China (friendly versus adversarial; Belt and Road Initiative member or not; China as a major or minor trading partner or source of investment). Third, we looked for countries where there was clear evidence of media influence from China, and examples of resilience to CCP media or political influence. Fourth, we considered a country’s strategic importance and population size, with a preference for countries with relatively large populations or strategic relevance. 

    Research Process

    Freedom House staff invited at least one local researcher to serve as the primary analyst for each country, training them to assess Beijing’s media influence efforts and local resilience according to the project’s comprehensive research and scoring rubric (see below). Local researchers conducted desk research and interviews with members of the media, government, and civil society, then submitted responses to a questionnaire (see below), with responses determining proposed scores. Local researchers then attended a review meeting focused on their region to discuss key findings, regional trends, best practices, and recommendations. Freedom House staff fact-checked research, supplementing it as needed via Chinese-language or other research, and authored country reports. The local analyst, a regional adviser, and other relevant experts then reviewed the scores and country narratives. After completing regional and country consultations, Freedom House staff performed a final review of all narratives and scores to ensure their comparative consistency and integrity.

    Country narratives (6,000-8,000 words) provide depth and nuance to the analysis, including details supporting scores and broader dynamics related to both influence efforts and domestic resilience and responses. Translations of all country reports into the dominant local language will be published to ensure accessibility of the research to policymakers, civil society, and media professionals in each country of study.

    Drawing on the resulting data set and robust cross-country qualitative analysis, Freedom House staff determined the global report’s key findings. The resulting study is the first application of this methodology to a set of countries. Future editions, pending funding, may refine and update the methodology, including to incorporate emerging influence tactics or response initiatives. The end product represents the consensus of the analysts, advisers, and Freedom House staff, who are responsible for any final decisions.

    Scoring Process

    The BGMI methodology’s questionnaire includes 150 questions, divided into two main categories of equal value (see full “Checklist of Questions” below):

      • Beijing’s Media Influence Efforts: Eighty-five questions, each worth a single point, detail overt and covert forms of Chinese state media content dissemination, disinformation, censorship and intimidation, control over content infrastructure, and dissemination of CCP norms and practices. The total score is the sum of the number of avenues of influence that were found to be present in that country. Based on the score, Freedom House assigned the following status ratings reflecting the extent of Beijing’s Media Influence Efforts in a particular country:
        • Low: 0-29
        • Notable: 30-35
        • High: 36-45
        • Very High: 46 or above

    • Resilience and Response: 65 questions analyze various sources of resilience or responses to specific actions taken by the CCP and its proxies across four sectors: media, legal, political, and civil society. The final section of this category includes questions that account for problematic forms of pushback, which may have the effect of limiting CCP influence but which also infringe on freedom of information rights or well-being of members of the local Chinese diaspora.

    Most questions are worth 1 point, assessing the presence or absence of a particular type of law, policy response, media action, or civil society initiative. Select questions are worth more than one point to give sufficient weight to underlying democratic rights, press freedom protections, existing expertise on China, and public skepticism towards Chinese state-produced content.  The “problematic pushback” section includes five questions each worth 1 negative point that is subtracted from the overall Resilience and Response score. The final score for the Resilience and Response is a sum of all points accrued, adjusted to an 85-point scale to match the range reflecting Beijing’s Media Influence Efforts. [Formula used to adjust the Resilience and Response score = (RR positive score - PP score) * (1.18)]

    Based on the resilience and response score, Freedom House also assigned the following status ratings reflecting the extent of Response and Resilience in a particular country. (While the score is intended to reflect degree of resilience, countries may receive low scores due to a low rate of influence efforts to respond to.)

    • Low: 0-30
    • Notable: 31-40
    • High: 41-50
    • Very High: 51 and above

    Vulnerable or Resilient: The Beijing’s Media Influence Efforts score is subtracted from the Resilience and Response score to product the Resilience or Vulnerability rating. This rating reflects how well equipped a country is to respond to influence efforts it is facing. Freedom House assigned the status rating as follows:

    • Resilient: Difference of 6 points and above
    • Vulnerable: Difference of 5 points or fewer.

    Scores strictly cover the period of January 2019 to December 2021, while analysis in narratives may extend beyond this timeframe as needed for context or updates.

    Replication

    Freedom House is providing a blank template of the methodology questions and relevant formulas for arriving at a score and status for any researchers, journalists, or civic groups in a country not covered in the initial sample who would wish to apply the analytical framework to their own country. Please provide credit to Freedom House for the methodology.

    The full dataset for the 30 countries included in this study is available here. 

    Methodology Questions

    Note: All questions are worth 1 point unless otherwise indicated.

    Beijing’s media influence efforts (85 questions)

    Propaganda and promotion of favored narratives (38 questions)

    • Were Chinese state media channels (like China Global Television Network) available on local television (free-to-air, digital, cable)?

    • Were Chinese state media print publications distributed in the country (such as China Daily or magazines)?
    • Did Chinese state media programming air on local radio stations?
    • Were Chinese state media available in at least one of the dominant local language(s)?
    • Did the local Chinese ambassador and/or Chinese diplomatic outpost (embassy or consulate) have a Twitter or other social media account?
    • Did a local Chinese state media or diplomatic social media account have 10,000 or more followers?
    • Did a local Chinese state media or diplomatic social media account have 100,000 or more followers?
    • Did Chinese official accounts appear to receive substantial engagement from authentic local users?
    • Did any news outlet in the country publish an insert from a Chinese state-run news outlet or other Chinese official entity?
    • Did a major news outlet in the country publish an insert from a Chinese state-run news outlet or other Chinese official entity?
    • Did Chinese state media content appear in politically or geographically diverse local news outlets?
    • Did a Chinese official or diplomat publish at least one op-ed in a local outlet during the coverage period?
    • Did a Chinese official or diplomat publish ten or more op-eds in local outlets?
    • Was a Chinese official or diplomat featured in an interview with a major news outlet during the coverage period?
    • Were there any examples of Chinese officials, companies, or an agent acting on their behalf paying local media to publish or write articles?
    • Did a major private news outlet have a content-sharing agreement in effect with a Chinese state-owned outlet, such as Xinhua, China News Service, or China Central Television?
    • Did a publicly funded news outlet have a content-sharing agreement in effect with a Chinese state-owned outlet, such as Xinhua, China News Service, or China Central Television?
    • Did a news syndication service or news wire in the country have a content-sharing agreement in effect with a Chinese state-owned news outlet such as Xinhua, China News Service, or China Central Television?
    • Has a news outlet that signed a content-sharing agreement with a Chinese state-owned outlet such as Xinhua, China News Service, or China Central Television published its content during the coverage period?
    • Were there examples of content from Chinese officials or state media appearing in local outlets without their origin being labeled?
    • Have any local news outlets participated in a joint news network with Chinese state media, such as Asia News Network or Belt and Road News Network?
    • Did a Chinese state media–produced documentary or one-time news program air on local television?
    • Was there a regularly scheduled timeslot on local television reserved for Chinese state media produced programming?
    • Did a video or radio co-production between a local media outlet and Chinese state media on news or current affairs air on broadcast media or their online presence?
    • Was a Chinese state-media local representative or correspondent active on social media with a large local following (20,000 followers or more)?
    • Were there examples of social media influencers with financial or other ties to the Chinese government that published pro-Beijing content who garnered a large local following (20,000 followers or more)?
    • Did any local journalists, editors, media executives, or media owners travel to China on a trip subsidized by the Chinese government or related company or participated elsewhere in a Chinese government or CCP-led media summit between 2019 and 2021?
    • Were any local journalists, editors, media executives, or media owners who had traveled to China on a trip subsidized by the Chinese government or related company prior to 2019 working in the industry during the coverage period?
    • Did a journalist or media executive returning from a subsidized press trip to China publish an article or public comments repeating preferred CCP talking points?
    • Has a local journalist union signed a memorandum of understanding or otherwise partnered with the All China Journalists Association, a Chinese state media outlet, or the local Chinese embassy?
    • Did a Chinese company or individual with close Chinese government or CCP ties own a meaningful stake in a local news outlet or media company?
    • Were there examples of media outlets with friendly ties to the Chinese government (including investment from a Chinese company) whose editorial line strongly promoted Beijing’s preferred narratives?
    • Did a top local political leader—a president, prime minister, foreign minister, member of Parliament, etc.—make comments to the media echoing CCP propaganda narratives or talking points?
    • Did local opinion leaders (scholars, think tank researchers, experts, columnists) whose views align closely with the Chinese government have a significant influence over political commentary related to China and bilateral relations?
    • Has a business entity (PRC-based or local) with interests in China or in enhancing Chinese investment in the country under study tried to exert influence over news coverage in a manner favorable to Beijing and its interests?
    • Was there any evidence that politicians, opinion leaders, or scholars received money from a PRC-linked entity in exchange for making comments or publishing articles in line with Beijing’s preferred narratives?
    • Did Chinese-language news outlets that are either Chinese state-owned or are pro-Beijing play a dominant role in shaping the news content accessible to Chinese speakers?
    • Did any local Chinese-language journalists, editors, or media executives attend a Chinese government– or CCP-sponsored media gathering during the coverage period?

    Disinformation campaigns (9 questions)

    • Did Chinese state-affiliated actors openly promote falsehoods (including manipulated imagery) or misleading content to news consumers in the country through online or offline channels (e.g. diplomatic or embassy social media accounts or websites)?
    • Has evidence emerged of inauthentic behavior and fake accounts being used to amplify social media posts by Chinese diplomats or state media active in the country under study?
    • Has documentation emerged of a disinformation campaign linked to China that targeted news consumers in the country of study and deployed inauthentic behavior (tactics like bots, fake accounts, and content farms)?
    • Has documentation emerged in the country of multiple disinformation campaigns linked to China that targeted news consumers in the country of study and deployed inauthentic behavior?
    • Has documentation emerged in the country of ten or more disinformation campaigns linked to China that targeted news consumers in the country of study and deployed inauthentic behavior?
    • Have there been documented disinformation campaigns linked to China that sought to amplify domestic divisions within the country of study (including regarding racial/ethnic or partisan political tensions) or the country’s international alliances?
    • Have there been documented disinformation campaigns linked to China that sought to clearly support, oppose, or slander a political party or electoral candidate in the country under study?
    • Have mainstream news outlets, social media influencers, or local political leaders knowingly or unknowingly shared messages spread through local or global documented disinformation campaigns?
    • Was there evidence of messages from a documented disinformation campaign that reached news consumers in the country having an observable impact on public debate or perceptions in the direction favored by Beijing?

    Censorship and intimidation (21 questions)

    • Was a local news outlet’s website blocked in China?
    • Was a foreign correspondent based in China from a local news outlet expelled from or denied entry to China due to their reporting, or worsening bilateral relations with their home country?
    • Was a foreign correspondent physically blocked by security forces or officials in China from reporting a story to readers or viewers in their home country?
    • Have the China-based relatives of journalists living in the country of study—including from the Chinese diaspora or exile communities—faced harassment, intimidation, or detention by Chinese authorities in an apparent effort to discourage the journalist from reporting critically about the Chinese government?
    • Have Chinese government representatives (including diplomats) made public comments or sent private messages that intimidate, threaten, or insult local journalists or commentators in apparent retaliation for their reporting about China or the Chinese government?
    • Has the local government (including via its own ownership, editorial control, or other leverage over local media) taken actions to suppress critical coverage of China, the Chinese government, or China-linked activities in the country?
    • Has the local government taken any legal action (including detention or regulatory action) against local media or journalists critical of the Chinese government?
    • Did media outlets with friendly ties to the Chinese government (including both private media and media companies linked to the local government) suppress or avoid news and commentary critical of human rights abuses or other political developments in China (including in Hong Kong)?
    • Did media outlets with friendly ties to the Chinese government (including both private media and media companies linked to the local government) suppress or avoid stories critical of Chinese investment or related activities in the country under study?
    • Did media outlets with friendly ties to the Chinese government (including both private media and media companies linked to the local government) dismiss, punish, or demote journalists or columnists critical of the Chinese government or Chinese activities in the country under study, without their being reinstated?
    • Were there incidents of advertisers avoiding or revoking ads from media critical of China—either of their own accord or because of Chinese government or diplomatic pressure?
    • Were restrictions placed on the distribution channels (such as cable television access or newspaper distribution sites) of media outlets critical of China due to direct or indirect Chinese government influence, with those restrictions still in place during the coverage period?
    • Did any pro-Beijing entrepreneurs or other powerful individuals file or threaten to file defamation suits against local media or journalists over reporting critical of China, the CCP, or CCP influence in the country of study?
    • Were apps of news outlets based in the country of study inaccessible from app stores in China, having been removed by technology firms hosting the stores?
    • Have any cyberattacks (including hacking attempts) occurred against journalists in the country of study that are critical of China occurred that could be reasonably linked to China-based actors or attributed to them based on available evidence?
    • Have any cyberattacks occurred against media outlets in the country of study that are critical of China occurred that could be reasonably linked to China-based actors or attributed to them based on available evidence?
    • Were there social media posts or inauthentic campaigns linked to China or Chinese state media reports that sought to slander a Chinese dissident in the country under study?
    • Were there any physical attacks against media workers in the country who are critical of China, or against their offices or other property, that could be reasonably attributed to Beijing-linked actors or for which evidence exists linking them to Chinese government actors or proxies?
    • Have local journalists or commentators critical of the Chinese government reported being intimidated or verbally abused online by CCP-aligned trolls?
    • Were there topics sensitive to the Chinese government that one would expect to be of interest to local audiences, but which are largely absent from mainstream news coverage and commentary—such as problematic dimensions of Chinese investment in the local economy, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Falun Gong, Tibet, Taiwan, top CCP leader corruption, or COVID-19 origins?
    • Did local journalists or commentators report self-censoring or appear to avoid reporting in ways that the Chinese government might object to?

    Control over content distribution infrastructure (10 questions)

    • Did companies headquartered in China or with financial ties to the Chinese government operate a portion of the digital television or cable television infrastructure in the country under study?
    • Have companies headquartered in China or with financial ties to the Chinese government used control over television distribution infrastructure to favor Chinese-state media content over independent or critical sources of information?
    • Was a social media application owned by a China-based company among the top 10 most downloaded or used apps in the country in either of the last three years (2019, 2020, 2021)?
    • Was an aggregator application owned by a China-based company among the top 10 most downloaded or used apps in the country in either of the last three years (2019, 2020,2021)?
    • Have there been reports of local users of apps owned by China-based companies encountering censorship of political or religious commentary related to China, or of other moderation policies that reflect the CCP’s party line?
    • Did local political leaders or government agencies have accounts on apps owned by China-based companies that they use to communicate with constituents?
    • Did local media outlets or journalists have accounts on apps owned by China-based companies that they use to communicate with local news consumers?
    • Did local news outlets or journalists report encountering politicized censorship or self-censoring to avoid reprisals when posting news stories and commentary for local audiences to accounts on apps owned by China-based companies?
    • Did Chinese state-owned companies (like China Mobile or China Unicom), or private companies with a record of censorship or surveillance in China (like Huawei) own or manage all or part of the mobile phone infrastructure in the country?
    • Did Chinese state-owned (like China Mobile or China Unicom), or private companies with a record of censorship or surveillance in China (like Huawei or Xiaomi) have a meaningful market share among local mobile devices (over 10 percent)?

    Dissemination of CCP media norms, tactics, or governance models (7 questions)

    • Did local journalists attend trainings in China or hosted by Chinese officials but held elsewhere that emphasized journalistic norms favoring positive coverage or promotion of government views, rather than editorial independence and a watchdog approach to journalism?
    • Were there examples of journalists relaying that they have applied lessons learned from such trainings to their own reporting practices?
    • Did local officials attend trainings in China or hosted by Chinese officials on “news management” or “public opinion guidance” or other forms of information influence?
    • Was there any evidence of local officials applying lessons learned from such trainings to influence public opinion in the country or suppress critical voices?
    • Did Chinese state actors provide technical or financial support (such as upgrades to broadcasting equipment) to local media outlets in the country?
    • Did Chinese state actors provide technical or financial support (such as upgrades to broadcasting equipment) to local media outlets that create imbalances in the media market by favoring certain outlets over others?
    • Did Chinese officials or China-based companies provide technical support facilitating internet censorship (such as website blocking) or social media manipulation to local politicians, enabling them to take action vis-à-vis their own political opponents?

     

    Resilience and response (65 questions)

    Media (22 questions)

    • What was the overall level of media freedom in the country? (Per the D1 question from the latest edition of Freedom in the World) (0-4 points)
    • Were the standards of media professionalism and journalistic ethics in the country generally considered high, moderate, or low? (0-2 points)
    • Did influential news outlets in the country under study have the resources, skills, and personnel to conduct investigative reporting generally, on topics unrelated to China?
    • Did influential local news outlets in the country have reporters or commentators dedicated to the coverage of China, who have garnered independent expertise on the topic?
    • Was at least one foreign correspondent from the country who is stationed in mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan and produces independent reporting?
    • Did major media in the country report or feature stories critical of Beijing regarding events in China (such as the persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang), including from international news wire services?
    • Were independent international sources (such as news wires, foreign NGOs, or international think tanks) used for coverage of China, including for stories critical of Beijing?
    • Did news outlets with content-sharing or other agreements with Chinese state media also publish stories critical of the Chinese government or CCP policies either in China or abroad?
    • Did major media in the country report stories critical of the Chinese governments’ activities or behavior within the country under study (such as regarding investments, corruption, labor rights, territorial disputes, etc.)? 
    • Did major media report about CCP foreign influence, including in the political, media or information space, in the country or globally?
    • Did reporting critical of the Chinese government and CCP appear in politically or geographically diverse local news outlets?
    • Did individual journalists publicly report on efforts by the Chinese government or CCP-linked actors to influence their reporting?
    • Did any news outlets reject or discontinue paid advertorials or other content placements from Chinese state media outlets?
    • Did journalist educational programs (including continuing education and civil society organized trainings) include sessions or units about Chinese government tactics for influencing foreign media, and appropriate ethical responses from reporters?
    • Did the country have an independent press council serving as a forum for print and other media to self-regulate?
    • Did a press council issue any guidance on ethical standards and best practices that is relevant to media influence from China?
    • Were there any local Chinese-language media pursuing reporting and analysis independent of the Chinese party-state?
    • Were there examples of business models or funding sources for independent media that have helped increase resilience to CCP pressure and economic coercion tactics? 
    • Did local media and journalists demonstrate solidarity when responding to attacks on or censorship of individual reporters by powerful local actors?
    • Did local media and journalists demonstrate solidarity when responding to attacks on or censorship of individual reporters or outlets by Chinese party-state actors or their proxies?
    • Did international social media platforms remove disinformation networks linked to China relevant to the country under study?
    • Did international social media platforms label most Chinese government affiliated accounts and news sources as tied to the Chinese state on the dominant social media platform(s) in the country?

    Legal (22 questions)

    • Did the constitution or other laws protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by an independent judiciary? (Per the C1 question from the  latest edition of Freedom on the Net) (0-6 points)
    • Was there an independent media regulatory body?
    • Were there laws or regulations in place that enhanced transparency related to media ownership, including by foreign entities?
    • Was there a high degree of transparency surrounding media ownership?
    • Were foreign influence or media ownership transparency laws enforced with regard to China’s activities, including the labeling and/or registration of Chinese state-run media outlets?
    • Did the country have broadcasting or media regulations in place that govern cross-ownership in order to prevent artificial suppression of competitors? 
    • Were rules that governed cross-ownership enforced in a fair, rigorous, and consistent manner with regard to China-linked companies or individuals?
    • Did the country have anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) laws or legal precedents in place that can limit lawsuits against reporting related to China or other topics that are in the public interest?
    • Were anti-SLAPP laws or decisions applied in relevant China-related cases?
    • Did the country have laws that place limitations on the proportion of foreign ownership in media, particularly broadcast media?
    • Were rules limiting foreign ownership stakes applied in cases involving China-based or CCP-linked individuals or companies?
    • Were there laws that place limitations on political party or other partisan ownership in media, particularly broadcast media?
    • Were rules limiting political party or other partisan ownership in media applied in cases involving Chinese party-state owned media outlets?
    • Was there public consultations and/or a competitive bidding process for projects involving potential China-based or CCP-linked company investment in media or digital infrastructure?
    • Was there an investment screening and review mechanism regarding foreign ownership or investment in the media, including as a result of the media being designated a strategic industry?
    • Was a screening mechanism applied to Chinese government or CCP-linked efforts to purchase stakes in the local media?
    • Did the country have an investment screening and review mechanism regarding foreign ownership or investment in digital information infrastructure?
    • Was a screening mechanism applied to Chinese government or CCP-linked investment in digital infrastructure, including social media applications?
    • Was there a mechanism, such as a human rights commission or labor relations board, through which victims of censorship or dismissals due to Chinese-government influence can seek legal redress?
    • Did any victim of censorship or dismissal allegedly tied to Chinese-government influence file a lawsuit or otherwise seek legal redress?
    • Were the perpetrators of physical attacks or harassment of journalists critical of the Chinese government or CCP prosecuted?
    • Did court decisions in cases related to Chinese media influence (defamation, dismissals, arbitrary detention) display independence and due process?

    Political (7 questions)          

    • Did political leaders or elected representatives (in the ruling party or opposition) publicly express concern over covert, corrupting, or coercive incidents of CCP foreign influence, including in the political, media, and information space?
    • When commenting on Chinese government influence, including in the media and information space, did political leaders make a conscious effort to differentiate between the CCP and the people of China or members of the local Chinese diaspora?
    • Were parliamentary hearings or inquiries held on the topic of covert, corrupting, or coercive CCP foreign influence, including in the political, media, and information space?
    • Were local Chinese diplomats rebuked or otherwise punished after intimidating or threatening journalists, commentators, news outlets, or advertisers?
    • Were there governmental initiatives to track foreign disinformation and media influence, including from China?
    • Did interagency bureaucratic structures and regulations exist to guide government officials on how to respond to foreign disinformation and media influence, including from China?
    • Did political leaders or government agencies work with technology firms and civil society to engage in multistakeholder initiatives to limit covert, corrupting, or coercive dimensions of Chinese government media influence?

    Civil society (9 questions)

    • What was the extent of independent in-country expertise regarding Chinese domestic politics, bilateral relations, and CCP foreign influence operations? (Very low, low, moderate, high) (0-3 points)
    • Were independent experts (in-country or foreign) on China or the CCP regularly consulted by government officials or cited in news reports on relevant topics?
    • Were there independent civil society groups that monitor and advocate for press and internet freedom in the country generally?
    • Were there nongovernmental initiatives to track, expose, and counter mis- and disinformation?
    • Were there nongovernmental (NGO, scholarly, or think tank) initiatives to monitor China’s media, social media presence in the country and its impact, including with regards to disinformation?
    • Were there civil society advocacy initiatives regarding policies that would reduce the covert, corrupting, or coercive dimensions of CCP influence on the media and information space in the country?
    • Were there examples of media literacy programs for the general public?
    • Were there incidents of members of the public pushing back against instances of Chinese government-linked media influence, such as criticizing mislabeled advertorials?
    • To what extent did news consumers appear to be skeptical of content produced by Chinese state media or affiliated actors? (Not at all, somewhat, very much so] (0-2 points)

    Problematic pushback (5 questions, each worth -1 point)

    • Did the government or regulators block or ban any China-based apps on national security or other grounds without a transparent process, clear legal basis, or opportunity for appeal? 
    • Did the government or regulators place any arbitrary restrictions on the activities of Chinese state media or journalists in the country under study (such as expelling journalists or blocking content distribution)?
    • Were there examples of local political leaders making public comments that exaggerate or take advantage of legitimate concerns over CCP influence to advance their own political power or suppress opposition?
    • Were there examples of local political leaders, media outlets, or commentators appearing to exaggerate or take advantage of legitimate concerns over CCP influence in a manner that has fueled anti-Chinese and xenophobic sentiment?
    • Did a political atmosphere of suspicion surrounding CCP influence appear to contribute to physical attacks, hate crimes, unsubstantiated accusations of spying, or other repercussions for local members of the Chinese diaspora?
     
     
    Beijing's Global Media Influence 2022 
    Acknowledgements
     
     
     

    Contributors

    Freedom House staff:

    • Sarah Cook, Research Director for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Author of global essays and co-author of Israel and United States reports
    • Angeli Datt, Senior Research Analyst for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Co-author of Australia, France, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Panama, Senegal, Taiwan, and United Kingdom reports
    • Ellie Young, Research Analyst for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Co-author of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Kuwait, Mozambique, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Romania, Spain, and Tunisia reports
    • BC Han, Research Associate for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Co-author of Chile, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Philippines, South Africa, and Sri Lanka reports

    Shannon O’TooleTyler RoylanceDavid Meijer, and Elisha Aaron edited Beijing’s Global Media Influence.

    Michael AbramowitzNicole Bibbins SedacaAnnie BoyajianLara ShaneAdrian ShahbazNate Schenkkan, and Allie Funk provided valuable feedback on the global findings.

    Yu-Fen Lai contributed research assistance. Josh Rudolph provided editorial assistance. Marta Hulievska provided support.

     

    Funding

    The project was made possible through the generous support of the U.S. Department of State, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Hurford Foundation. Additional support was provided by the Arch Puddington Fund for Combatting Authoritarianism, which was established by generous donors in honor of Senior Emeritus Scholar Arch Puddington to help carry forward his decades-long commitment to the cause of freedom and democracy. Our donors do not influence the organization’s research priorities, report findings, or policy recommendations.

     

    Country Researchers

    • Australia: Dr. Fan Yang, research assistant at RMIT University and Deakin ADI 
    • Chile: Sascha Hannig, Associated researcher, Instituto Desafíos de la Democracia (IDD)
    • Colombia: Dr. Carolina Urrego-Sandoval, Universidad de los Andes, Professo, Department of Political Science and Global Studies
    • Ghana: Dr. Aurelia Ayisi, Department of Communication Studies, University of Ghana
    • Indonesia: Dr. Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat, Lecturer, Universitas Islam Indonesia
    • Italy: Laura Harth, Campaigns Director, Safeguard Defenders
    • Kuwait: Mohammad J. alYousef, PhD Student in Political Science, University of Virginia
    • Malaysia: Benjamin Loh, Senior Lecturer, School of Media & Communication, Taylor's University
    • Mozambique: Dércio Tsandzana, PhD, independent researcher
    • Nigeria: Dr. Emeka Umejei, Centre for Global Cooperation Research, University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany
    • Philippines: Camille Elemia, Freelance Journalist
    • Poland: Alicja Bachulska, China Analyst, MapInfluenCE
    • Romania: Andreea Brinza, researcher, The Romanian Institute for the Study of the Asia-Pacific (RISAP)
    • South Africa: Barry van Wyk, Analyst, The China Project
    • Spain: Shiany Pérez-Cheng, Research Associate, Resilient Futures
    • Taiwan: Jaw-Nian Huang, Assistant Professor, Graduate Institute of Development Studies, National Chengchi University
    • Tunisia: Oumayma Ben Abdallah, Georgetown University, independent researcher on North Africa-China issues
    • United Kingdom: Sam Dunning, Freelance Journalist
    • United States: Yuichiro Kakutani, freelance journalist and Georgetown University, graduate student

    Researchers for Argentina, Brazil, France, India, Israel, Kenya, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Senegal, and Sri Lanka wished to remain anonymous.

     

    Advisers/Reviewers

    • Martin Hala, Charles University, Prague, and Project Sinopsis
    • Mareike Ohlberg, Senior Fellow, Asia Program, German Marshall Fund
    • Joshua Kurlantzick, Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia, Council on Foreign Relations
    • Puma Shen, National Taipei University
    • Tuvia Gering, researcher at the Israel-China Policy Center at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council's Global China Hub

    Four other advisers on this project wished to remain anonymous.

     

    Citing BGMI

    Please use the following citation when referencing the project, the global report, or select country reports:

    Cook, Datt, Young, Han, Beijing’s Global Media Influence, Freedom House, 2022, https://freedomhouse.org/report/beijing-global-media-influence/2022/aut… 

    Sarah Cook, “Authoritarian Expansion and the Power of Democratic Resilience,” in Cook, Datt, Young, Han, Beijing’s Global Media Influence, Freedom House, 2022, https://freedomhouse.org/report/beijing-global-media-influence/2022/aut…

    Ellie Young and Anonymous, “Argentina”, in Cook, Datt, Young, Han, Beijing’s Global Media Influence, Freedom House, 2022, https://freedomhouse.org/country/argentina/beijings-global-media-influe…

     

Setting the future of digital and social media marketing research: Perspectives and research propositions - ScienceDirect

Please taken the time to read the full published  Setting the future of digital and social media marketing research: Perspectives and research propositions paper below on htis www.inltv.co.uk webpage

Highlights

Huge potential for marketers that implement AI, VR technologies.

  • Customer engagement behaviors and customer journeys enhanced via SMM.

  • Importance of ethical practice and explainability in use of AI and ML.

  • Trust is positively impacted via the cultivation of customer engagement.

  • eWOM overload can be mitigated by applying new tools and mechanisms.

  • Setting the future of digital and social media marketing research: Perspectives and research propositions - ScienceDirect

    Opinion Paper

    Setting the future of digital and social media marketing research: Perspectives and research propositions

    Proposition: Augmented Reality will be as prevalent in the marketing of the future as the Internet is today.

    Since the role of Augmented Reality goes far beyond communicative aspects, dealing with it is very complex. Managers need to better understand the unique aspects of consumer behavior, specific goals, KPIs, technological challenges and so on. Building on this, they need supporting tools to develop Augmented Reality strategies. As scientists and educators it is our duty to support managers with insights and to include relevant topics in our curricula. This includes relevant concepts (e.g. theories and strategies), tools (e.g. 3D modelling), boundary conditions (e.g. legal and ethical aspects) and technological fundamentals (e.g. tracking or mapping).

    Proposition: The management of Augmented Reality is highly complex. Therefore, companies must develop specific skills and scholars should support this.

    Abstract

    The use of the internet and social media have changed consumer behavior and the ways in which companies conduct their business. Social and digital marketing offers significant opportunities to organizations through lower costs, improved brand awareness and increased sales. However, significant challenges exist from negative electronic word-of-mouth as well as intrusive and irritating online brand presence. This article brings together the collective insight from several leading experts on issues relating to digital and social media marketing. The experts’ perspectives offer a detailed narrative on key aspects of this important topic as well as perspectives on more specific issues including artificial intelligence, augmented reality marketing, digital content management, mobile marketing and advertising, B2B marketing, electronic word of mouth and ethical issues therein. This research offers a significant and timely contribution to both researchers and practitioners in the form of challenges and opportunities where we highlight the limitations within the current research, outline the research gaps and develop the questions and propositions that can help advance knowledge within the domain of digital and social marketing.

     

    Keywords

    Artificial intelligence
    Augmented reality marketing
    Digital marketing
    Ethical issues
    eWOM
    Mobile marketing
    Social media marketing

    1. Introduction

    Internet, social media, mobile apps, and other digital communications technologies have become part of everyday life for billions of people around the world. According to recent statistics for January 2020, 4.54 billion people are active internet users, encompassing 59 % of the global population (Statista, 2020a). Social media usage has become an integral element to the lives of many people across the world. In 2019 2.95 billion people were active social media users worldwide. This is forecast to increase to almost 3.43 billion by 2023 (Statistica, 2020b). Digital and social media marketing allows companies to achieve their marketing objectives at relatively low cost (Ajina, 2019). Facebook pages have more than 50 million registered businesses and over 88 % of businesses use Twitter for their marketing purposes (Lister, 2017). Digital and social media technologies and applications have also been widely used for creating awareness of public services and political promotions (Grover et al., 2019Hossain et al., 2018Kapoor and Dwivedi, 2015Shareef et al., 2016). People spend an increasing amount of time online searching for information, on products and services communicating with other consumers about their experiences and engaging with companies. Organisations have responded to this change in consumer behavior by making digital and social media an essential and integral component of their business marketing plans (Stephen, 2016).

    Organisations can significantly benefit from making social media marketing an integral element of their overall business strategy (Abed et al., 2015aAbed et al., 2015bAbed et al., 2016Dwivedi et al., 2015aFelix et al., 2017Kapoor et al., 2016Plume et al., 2016Rathore et al., 2016Shareef et al., 2018Shareef et al., 2019aShareef, Mukerji, Dwivedi, Rana, & Islam, 2019bShiau et al., 20172018Singh et al., 2017Yang et al., 2017). Social media enables companies to connect with their customers, improve awareness of their brands, influence consumer’s attitudes, receive feedback, help to improve current products and services and increase sales (Algharabat et al., 2018Kapoor et al., 2018Kaur et al., 2018

    3.8.7. Conclusion

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0268401220308082 

    Augmented Reality is still in its infancy, but most probably about to experience a breakthrough. As discussed in this section, Augmented Reality Marketing is much more than just a communicative gimmick, it might become a new paradigm in management research and practice. However, surprisingly little research has been conducted in this field. I hope that this section inspires scholars from a range of disciplines to research Augmented Reality and how it can positively impact marketing, businesses, consumers, and societies as a whole.

    3.9. Contribution 9 - responsible artificial intelligence (AI) perspective on social media marketing - Yichuan Wang

    Social media marketing is in transition as AI and analytics have the potential to liberate the power of social media data and optimize the customer experience and journey. Widespread access to consumer-generated information on social media, along with appropriate use of AI, have brought positive impacts to individuals, organisations, industries and society (Cohen, 2018). However, the use of AI in social media environments raises ethical concerns and carries the risk of attracting consumers’ distrust. A recent finding reported by Luo et al. (2019) indicates that AI chatbot identity disclosed before conversations with consumers significantly reduces the likelihood of purchase. Therefore, if the ethical dilemmas are not addressed when implementing AI for marketing purposes, the result may be a loss of credibility for products, while the company’s reputation in the marketplace may suffer. In the following sections I introduce some responsible AI initiatives for social media marketing, and then suggest future directions by proposing possible research questions.

    3.9.1. Responsible AI-driven social media marketing

     Theme

    Limitations and Research Gaps Identified by Experts

1) Research is needed to further understand how digital marketing relates to humanity.

2) There is a lack of scales to measure the impact of social media consumption on consumer behavior

3) Future research should focus on novel social media platforms (comparison of different platforms, explore motivations for individuals to use certain platforms)

4) The majority of studies focus on Twitter and Facebook, with limited attention to other platforms. Future studies could investigate the variation of consumer behavior across different platforms.

5) Future research should focus on how negative vs positive eWOM communications travel through a social network.

6) Future research should focus on how companies can increase consumer willingness to disclose their private information to ensure customers satisfaction.

7) Future research is needed on novel social media platforms, which includes the comparison of different platforms and exploration of motivations of individuals to use certain platforms.

8) Current research is faced with difficulties in measuring social media consumption behavior. Future research is needed to develop scales to measure it.

9) Research is needed to design ways of using D&SMT and how different types of consumers can engage with brands.

10) Future research is needed to analyze how customers evaluate CX performance within an omnichannel environment in consideration of relevant cues and encounters across all channels.

Environment

11) Future studies should focus on customer privacy. What role does digital literacy regarding privacy play? What strategies are most effective for dealing with consumer privacy concerns that prevent CEB outcomes within digital channels?

12) Future research should investigate the technology preferences for vulnerable customers that enable them to better participate in CEB’s with brands.

13) The majority of studies focused on reviews posted by anonymous reviewers, concentrating more on the credibility of the message. Scholars should consider the interaction effect between message characteristic and source credibility dimensions in the context of high and low involvement products.

14) The majority of studies focused on written eWOM. Future research should focus on the combination of different formats (e.g. video + text, picture + text, video + picture, picture or text only) on review trustworthiness.

15) Studies do not consider how the channel where the review is published can affect perceived review trustworthiness.

16) The majority of studies have focused on the review and/or the reviewer. However, few studies have analyzed the potential moderators and mediators in the relationship between antecedents of trust and perceived review and reviewer trust.

17) Future research could assess whether the format and the medium act as moderators in the relationships between antecedents of credibility and consumer attitude, evaluation and behavior.

18) The majority of studies use relatively small sample sizes and limited theoretical underpinning.

19) More research should be done on the use of influencers by companies. What factors affect the success and impact of influencer endorsement?

20) Further studies are needed on the use of social media across different countries. What difference exist between countries in their use of social media, how culture impacts these differences?

21) Future studies should focus on consumer attitude to the virtual products and effective promotional messages in augmented reality.

22) More research is needed on the topic of augmented reality: What drives the adoption of augmented reality? What risks and fears do people perceive when interacting with AR?

23) Future research should focus on understanding what influences an individuals’ “marketing comfort”.

24) There is a critical need for scholarly intervention to understand what impacts individuals’ attitudes and perspectives towards the use of their social media data.

strategies

1) Future studies are needed on developing and modifying metrics on Return on Investment.

2) How to measure the success of promotion campaigns by influencers and celebrities.

2) More studies are needed on social network analysis (experimental or quasi-experimental design on examination of how influencers’ use of paid advertisements affects followers in the social network)

3) It is necessary for consumer research to continue to examine and understand the mechanisms by which D&SMT can further unlock CEBs and improve consumer well-being.

4) Studies rely on a small sample size of companies to conduct research. More research is needed that utilises larger sample sizes.

5) A limited number of studies use objective measures which are lacking real-world relevance
6) Most of the studies focus on sales and advertising while more understanding of other areas of industrial marketing is needed (e.g. buyer-seller relationships)

7) Studies did not investigate how digital content marketing affect email open rate, generating leads and loyalty. Future research should investigate how to measure this effect with theoretical underpinnings..

strategies

8) A limited number of studies considered the effect of the content posted by staff and consumers on the ethical principles of the brand. Future research needs to examine it.

9) Future research should consider how companies manage their social media presence in line with GDPR.

10) More research is needed on augmented reality: How companies can organize and implement augmented reality marketing? How to measure the success of augmented reality marketing? Relevant KPIs? What skills companies should have for Augment Reality to be used in marketing?

11) Researchers should compare the use of social media marketing and role within different sectors.

12) More studies are needed on AI: How companies can understand consumers' responses towards the use of AI in social media marketing? How companies can ensure that they use AI to deliver value to target customers with an ethical mindset?

13) Studies are needed to analyze the role of social media data transparency within ethical organizational practices.

14) Further studies are required on invalid traffic identification and the measurement of their effects on data quality

1) Future research is needed on how companies articulate their objectives (e.g. brand building, attracting advocates etc).
2) Future research should investigate the optimum portfolio of social media channels.
3) A limited number of studies investigate the relationships between social media marketing agencies and clients. What are the characteristics of effective SM marketing-agency -client relationships?
4) Future research should investigate the roles, power, and responsibilities of big tech gatekeepers (Google, Amazon…), regulatory institutions, brands and other human and non-human stakeholders of the digital eco-system.

1) More studies are needed on consumer engagement. How demographic characteristics of consumers influence engagement with SMM?
2) More studies are needed on advertising. Future research is advised to investigate on how the type of advertising influences perceived value; effect of location-based advertising on buying decision; how advertising in app influences willingness of the users to click, increase attention and develop positive attitude
3) More studies are needed on the effect of mobile marketing on brand communication (does it increase brand awareness, brand attitude, customer satisfaction, customer retention, positive eWOM)

 

1) Most of the current studies use small sample size which can influence generalization of the results. Chen & Lee, 2018
2) Studies should use a variety of methods to test relationships between different variables (e.g. experimental design) Chen & Lee, 2018
3) Studies designed to explore the dynamics and variations among subcultures and subgroups of different social media platforms. For example, future studies may want to explore if female and male consumers are motivated by different values in using Snapchat. Chen & Lee, 2018
4) Future studies should explore the use of social media platforms in different culture context Chen & Lee, 2018
5) Some of the studies’ sample is skewed toward large, global brands, whose social media marketing operation is generally well-resourced. Thus, the reported findings may not generalize to small- and medium-sized firms Tafesse & Wien, 2018
6) Studies are advised to use various social media platforms Tafesse & Wien, 2018Hwan et al., 2018Kang & Park, 2018
7) Most of the studies use only single content Ang et al., 2018
8) The majority of the studies are conducted only in one country, which can limit the generalizability of the results.

 

1) Most of the studies are cross-sectional, whereas a longitudinal study will indicate what is happening over a period of time. Matikiti et al., 2018
2) More research is needed using different countries and industry (use of social media by companies) Canovi & Pucciarelli, 2019
3) More research is needed using a mix of methods of data collection (e.g. observations, survey, focus groups) Canovi & Pucciarelli, 2019
4) Most of the studies are conducted in the context of B2C or B2B companies. More research in the context of B2B2C business models is needed. Iankova et al., 2019
5) Most of the studies are conducted on just one/two countries which can limit generalizability of findings on other countries. Iankova et al., 2019Alansari et al., 2018
6) Further research is needed to study whether there are ways of making digital marketing either easier to use or at least appear easy to use. Ritz et al., 2019
7) More research is required to identify optimal environments in which small business owners and managers increase digital marketing adoption and close the digital gap that exists with large corporations Ritz et al., 2019
8) Future research should seek a deeper understanding of the customer’s journey, especially in the final adoption process, as well as improvements in data analysis Ballestar et al., 2019
9) Studies used a limited number of social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) Vermeer et al., 2019
10) Studies that focusses on webcare response seemed to consider only relevant comments. Future research could explore motivations behind webcare-irrelevant comments as the amount of these comments was considerable, in both social media platforms and especially within Facebook

 

By bringing together findings from the current research on digital and social media marketing and the various views from reputable experts, this study offers significant and timely contributions to practitioners in the form of challenges and opportunities as well as research limitations, gaps, questions and/or propositions that can help researchers toward advancing knowledge within the domain of digital and social media marketing.

CRediT authorship contribution statement

Opinion Paper

Setting the future of digital and social media marketing research: Perspectives and research propositions

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2020.102168Get rights and content
Under a Creative Commons license
open access
 

Highlights

  • Huge potential for marketers that implement AI, VR technologies.

  • Customer engagement behaviors and customer journeys enhanced via SMM.

  • Importance of ethical practice and explainability in use of AI and ML.

  • Trust is positively impacted via the cultivation of customer engagement.

  • eWOM overload can be mitigated by applying new tools and mechanisms.

Abstract

The use of the internet and social media have changed consumer behavior and the ways in which companies conduct their business. Social and digital marketing offers significant opportunities to organizations through lower costs, improved brand awareness and increased sales. However, significant challenges exist from negative electronic word-of-mouth as well as intrusive and irritating online brand presence. This article brings together the collective insight from several leading experts on issues relating to digital and social media marketing. The experts’ perspectives offer a detailed narrative on key aspects of this important topic as well as perspectives on more specific issues including artificial intelligence, augmented reality marketing, digital content management, mobile marketing and advertising, B2B marketing, electronic word of mouth and ethical issues therein. This research offers a significant and timely contribution to both researchers and practitioners in the form of challenges and opportunities where we highlight the limitations within the current research, outline the research gaps and develop the questions and propositions that can help advance knowledge within the domain of digital and social marketing.

Keywords

Artificial intelligence
Augmented reality marketing
Digital marketing
Ethical issues
eWOM
Mobile marketing
Social media marketing

1. Introduction

Internet, social media, mobile apps, and other digital communications technologies have become part of everyday life for billions of people around the world. According to recent statistics for January 2020, 4.54 billion people are active internet users, encompassing 59 % of the global population (Statista, 2020a). Social media usage has become an integral element to the lives of many people across the world. In 2019 2.95 billion people were active social media users worldwide. This is forecast to increase to almost 3.43 billion by 2023 (Statistica, 2020b). Digital and social media marketing allows companies to achieve their marketing objectives at relatively low cost (Ajina, 2019). Facebook pages have more than 50 million registered businesses and over 88 % of businesses use Twitter for their marketing purposes (Lister, 2017). Digital and social media technologies and applications have also been widely used for creating awareness of public services and political promotions (Grover et al., 2019Hossain et al., 2018Kapoor and Dwivedi, 2015Shareef et al., 2016). People spend an increasing amount of time online searching for information, on products and services communicating with other consumers about their experiences and engaging with companies. Organisations have responded to this change in consumer behavior by making digital and social media an essential and integral component of their business marketing plans (Stephen, 2016).

Organisations can significantly benefit from making social media marketing an integral element of their overall business strategy (Abed et al., 2015aAbed et al., 2015bAbed et al., 2016Dwivedi et al., 2015aFelix et al., 2017Kapoor et al., 2016Plume et al., 2016Rathore et al., 2016Shareef et al., 2018Shareef et al., 2019aShareef, Mukerji, Dwivedi, Rana, & Islam, 2019bShiau et al., 20172018Singh et al., 2017Yang et al., 2017). Social media enables companies to connect with their customers, improve awareness of their brands, influence consumer’s attitudes, receive feedback, help to improve current products and services and increase sales (Algharabat et al., 2018Kapoor et al., 2018Kaur et al., 2018Lal et al., 2020). The decline of traditional communication channels and societal reliance on bricks-and-mortar operations, has necessitated that businesses seek best practices use of digital and social media marketing strategies to retain and increase market share (Naylor et al., 2012Schultz & Peltier, 2013). Significant challenges exist for organisations developing their social media strategy and plans within a new reality of increased power in the hands of consumers and greater awareness of cultural and societal norms (Kietzmann et al., 2011). Nowadays, consumer complaints can be instantly communicated to millions of people (negative electronic word-of-mouth) all of which can have negative consequences for the business concerned (Ismagilova et al., 20172020bJavornik et al., 2020).

This study brings together the collective insights from several leading experts to discuss the significant opportunities, challenges and future research agenda relating to key aspects of digital and social media marketing. The insights listed in this paper cover a wide spectrum of digital and social media marketing topics, reflecting the views from each of the invited experts. The research offers significant and timely contribution to the literature offering key insight to researchers in the advancement of knowledge within this marketing domain. This topic is positioned as a timely addition to the literature as the digital and social media marketing industry matures and takes its position as an integral and critical component of an organisations marketing strategy.

The remaining sections of this article are organized as follows. Section 2 presents the overview of current debates and overall themes within the current literature. Section 3 presents multiple experts’ perspectives on digital and social media marketing. Section 4 concludes the paper discussing limitations and directions for future research.

2. An analysis of recent literature

This section synthesizes the existing literature focusing on digital and social media marketing and discusses each theme listed in Table 1 from a review of the extant literature. Studies included in this section were identified using the Scopus database by using the following combination of keywords “Social media”, “digital marketing” and “social media marketing”. This approach is similar to the one used by existing review papers on a number of key topics (e.g. Dwivedi et al., 2017Dwivedi et al., 2019aDwivedi et al., 2019bDwivedi et al., 2019cMarriott et al., 2017Shareef et al., 2015). Based on the classification provided by Kannan and Li (2017) the overall topics were divided into four themes: environment, company, outcomes, and marketing strategies.

2.1. Environment

The introduction and advancement of digital technologies has significantly influenced the environment in which companies operate. The studies in this theme focus on the changes of consumer behavior and customer interactions through online media and eWOM communications.

Consumer behavior has significantly changed due to technological innovation and ubiquitous adoption of hand-held devices, directly contributing to how we interact and use social commerce to make decisions and shop online. The increasing use of digital marketing and social media has positively influenced consumer attitudes toward online shopping with increasing market share for eCommerce centric organisations (Abou-Elgheit, 2018Alam et al., 2019Komodromos et al. 2018). The increasing number of shopping channels has also influenced consumer behavior (Hossain et al., 20192020), creating a more diffused consumer shopping experience. Mobile channels have become the norm and are now embedded within consumers daily lives via the use of mobile tools, shopping apps, location-based services and mobile wallets - all impacting the consumer experience (Shukla and Nigam, 2018).

As in traditional marketing, it is important to identify the needs of users as well as their perceptions and attitudes to the various forms of messaging and communications. Kang (2018) proposed that organisations seek to identify the needs of members of online communities, create special offerings that accommodate those needs and effectively communicate with members to increase the satisfaction levels of online communities. The study by Bae and Zamrudi (2018) analyzed social fulfilment aspects of social media marketing, concluding that these characteristics were perceived to be useful in satisfying the motivations of consumers. The study assessed the motivations of belief, community participation and psychological factors, positing these as significant motivators of preceptive social media marketing and relevance for consumers. Consumer attitudes towards social media can in turn influence attitudes towards the brand. The research undertaken in Gaber et al. (2019) investigated consumer experiences using Instagram advertising, concluding that attitudes are influenced by consumer perception of content usefulness, entertainment, credibility and lack of irritation from the Instagram advertisement itself.

The emerging trend of targeted personal advertising has led to an increase in privacy concerns from consumers. Gironda et al. (2018) found that invasiveness, privacy control, perceived usefulness and consumer innovativeness, directly influenced consumer behavior intention relating to privacy concerns. Companies should be sensitive to privacy and the concerns of consumers as they develop their advertising strategies and build long-term customer relationships (Mandal, 2019).

While many studies within the literature rely on consumers from developed countries, the research by Abou-Elgheit (2018) emphasized the importance of understanding changing consumer behavior from a wider context. The study conducted research on social media marketing within Egypt, highlighting the importance of cognition, emotion, experience and personality aspects that can influence the consumer decision making process and trust toward online vendors. The author argues that different demographic, cultural, geographic and behavioral consumer segments should be considered in companies social media marketing activities.

Consumer voices have become more powerful due to the advancement of social media and be heard by many people. Researchers have focused on consumer engagement, underlying characteristics, motivations and impact of eWOM communications, where factors such as: brand engagement (Algharabat et al., 2018), brand image (Seo and Park, 2018), self-brand image congruity (Islam et al., 2018) have influenced consumer behavior. Consumers personal characteristics and psychological drivers in the form of self-esteem, life satisfactionnarcissism and need to belong, seem to play an important role in consumers sharing intention on social media platforms (Kim and Jang 2019).

eWOM communication can have a significant effect on information adoption, consumer attitude, purchase intention, brand loyalty, and trust (Filieri & McLeay, 2014Ismagilova et al., 2020aIsmagilova et al., 2020c). The study by Mazzucchelli et al. (2018) collected and analyzed survey data from 277 millennials and found that peer recommendations significantly affect customer trust and brand loyalty intention. Liu et al. (2018) concluded that expressing subjectivity within online reviews can increase purchase intention among consumers. eWOM communications can yield significant benefits to organisations but also present challenges. Negative eWOM communications can lead to dire consequences for companies resulting in damaged reputation, negative consumer attitudes and resulting decrease in sales. Consumers generally respond positively to attempts by organisations to promptly reply to negative social media postings where the replies are addressed individually rather than generic postings, thereby preserving brand reputation and trust (Lappeman et al. 2018).

The social media literature suggests that online opinion leaders play important role in the promotion of products and services, highlighting the criticality of selecting the right influencers (Lin et al., 2018Perez Curiel & Luque Ortiz, 2018). Opinion leaders can be experts, celebrities, micro-celebrities, micro-influencers, early adopters, market mavens and enthusiasts. The study by Lin et al. (2018) suggests that opinion leaders should be used to promote the hedonic and utilitarian value of products and services over different online forums. The research proposed five important steps in the process of utilizing influencers for promotion: 1) planning where the setting of objectives for the campaign is developed and the role of online opinion leaders is defined; 2) recognition where identifying influential and relevant online opinion leaders is defined; 3) alignment where the organisation matches online opinion leaders and online forums with the products or services promoted; 4) motivation where the organisation identifies the reward for online opinion leaders in a way that aligns with their social role; 5) coordination - which involves the negotiating, monitoring, and support for the opinion leaders).

2.2. Marketing strategies

Companies use numerous social media platforms for social media marketing, such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter etc. The choice of platforms depends on target consumers and marketing strategy. Chen and Lee (2018) investigated the use of Snapchat for social media marketing while targeting young consumers. The study findings highlighted that Snapchat is considered as the most intimate, casual, and dynamic platform providing users with information, socialization, and entertainment. The study identified that young consumers seem to have a positive attitude towards Snapchat engendering similar feelings toward purchase intention and brands advertised on the platform.

Tafesse and Wien (2018) analyzed various strategies employed by companies such as transformational - where the experience and identity of the focal brand exhibits desirable psychological characteristics; informational - presents factual product; service information in clear terms and interactional - where social media advertising cultivates ongoing interactions with customers and message strategies (Puto and Wells, 1984Laskey et al., 1989Tafesse and Wien, 2018). The research undertaken by Kusumasondjaja (2018) found that interactive brand posts were responded to more frequently than informative message content. Twitter was more effective for informative appeal. The findings highlighted that Facebook worked better for interactive entertainment posts and that Instagram was more suitable for interactive content combining informative-entertainment appeals. Interactive brand posts with mixed appeals received the most responses on Facebook and Instagram, while a self-oriented message with informative appeal obtained the least appeal (Kusumasondjaja 2018).

Content marketing plays an important role in the success of marketing communications. Aspects of the literature has argued that the use of emotions in the message significantly affects consumer behavior. The study by Hutchins et al. (2018) analyzed the marketing content of eleven B2B companies. It was found that using emotions in content marketing can lead to a competitive advantage and increased brand equity. Some studies looked at how companies should share their videos. Ang et al. (2018) conducted a scenario-based experiment with 462 participants and applied social impact theory to conclude that a livestreaming oriented strategy is more authentic in the eyes of consumers than pre-recorded videos by increasing consumers searching and subscription intention.

Social media message characteristics are important for advertisers. For example, Hwang et al. (2018) used motivation theory within a tourism context to conclude that completeness, relevance flexibility, timeliness of the argument, quality and trustworthiness of source credibility, have a positive impact on user satisfaction. This in turn can affect user intention where consumers are inclined to revisit the website and purchase the tourism product. Kang and Park (2018) found that message structure (interactivity, formality, and immediacy) significantly affects consumer behavior, such as attitude towards brand, corporate trust and purchase intention. Companies face many challenges when developing their strategies for social media marketing. The study by Parsons and Lepkowska-White (2018) proposed a framework to help managers to develop and apply social media as a marketing tool. The proposed framework includes four dimensions: messaging/projecting, monitoring, assessing, and responding. Lee et al. (2018) analyzed 106,316 Facebook messages across 782 companies and found that inclusion of humor and emotion can lead to greater consumer engagement.

2.3. Company

A number of different approaches have been adopted by organisations in the use of digital and social media marketing where companies have exhibited varying attitudes to social media strategy. The study by Matikiti et al. (2018) examined factors that affect attitude of travel agencies and tour operators in South Africa. By using questionnaires collected from 150 agencies the study found that there are internal and external factors influencing attitude. Internal factors are managerial support and managers’ level of education. External factors are pressure from competitors, perceived benefits and perceived ease of use. The study by Canovi and Pucciarelli (2019) investigated the attitude towards social media marketing in the context of small wine companies. The study found that while the majority of winery owners recognize the social, economic and emotional benefits of social media, they are far from exploiting its full potential.

The literature has identified variances in attitude to social media, depending on the size and type of the company. B2B companies tend to perceive social media as having a lower overall effectiveness as a marketing channel and categorize it as less important for relationship building than other communication models (Iankova et al., 2019). Motivations such as perceived economic benefit, sense of control, self-improvement, ease of use and perceived usefulness, tend to influence small businesses to use social media marketing (Ritz et al., 2019).

Organisations use various tools for analyzing and capturing data from social media and managing multi-channel communication. However, companies tend to lack sufficient knowledge on emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) with many organisations exhibiting low levels of adoption and utilization of Machine Learning (ML) analytical tools (Duan et al., 2019Gil-González et al., 2018Miklosik et al. 2019). These technologies could be used by companies for automated curation of brand-related social media images (Tous et al., 2018); to identify more effective sales promotional targets (Takahashi, 2019); to propose personalized incentives for users (Ballestar et al., 2019) and for identifying relevant eWOM communications (Vermeer et al., 2019).

2.4. Outcomes

The effects of digital and social media marketing can result in a number of positive and negative outcomes for organisations. Studies have found that social media marketing has a positive effect on customer retention (Hanaysha (2018) and also on purchase intention in the context of: hotels (Alansari et al., 2018), luxury fashion brands (Morra et al., 2018) and universities (Wong et al., 2018). Digital and social media marketing can have a positive effect on a company’s brand. This can take the form of aspects such as: brand meaning (Tarnovskaya and Biedenbach, 2018), brand equity (Stojanovic et al., 2018Mishra, 2019), brand loyalty (Shanahan et al., 2019) and brand sustainability (Ahmed et al., 2019). The research undertaken by Stojanovic et al. (2018) applied the schema theory and multidimensional approach to brand equity where the effect of social media communications on brand equity was studied using survey data of 249 international tourists. The results identified a positive effect of the intensity of social media use on brand awareness and intention to engage in eWOM communication. Studies have found that social media can have a significant influence on brand loyalty, sustainability and business effectiveness (Ibrahim & Aljarah 2018Veseli-Kurtishi 2018).

Studies have considered consumer engagement as an outcome of social media marketing. The study by Syrdal and Briggs (2018) proposed that engagement should be considered as a psychological state of mind and should be considered separately from interactive behavior which includes liking and sharing content. While the majority of studies consider the effect of social media marketing and digital marketing on commercial companies, some studies focused outcomes relating to non-profit organisations. Smith (2018) examined the use of Facebook and Twitter in the context of non-profit organisations and the outcomes as well as impact on user engagement, concluding that users respond differently to social media activities across platforms.

There are negative outcomes and resulting consequences of digital and social media marketing that need to be considered by organisations. Aswani et al. (2018) highlight that digital marketing can have a negative effect if performed by unskilled service providers. The study highlights that if marketing is not developed and managed properly, it fails to provide benefits, destructs value, increases transaction costs, coordination costs, loss of non-contractible value and negative impact on long-term benefits.

3. Multiple perspectives from invited contributors

This section is organized by employing the approach set out in Dwivedi et al. (2015b2019c) and Kizgin et al. (2020) for presenting consolidating experts’ contributions relating to the emerging area of digital and social media marketing to provide their input based on their research as well as practitioner expertise. Each perspective takes the form of an overview, challenges, limitations and research gap, along with related research propositions or questions. The contributions compiled in this section are in largely unedited form, expressed directly as they were written by the experts. Although, this approach creates an inherent unevenness in the logical flow, it captures the distinctive orientations of the experts and their recommendations related to various aspects of digital and social media marketing (Dwivedi et al., 2015b2019c). The list of contributions is provided in Table 2.

Table 2. Invited contributions related to digital and social media marketing.

Contribution title Author(s)
Digital marketing & humanity: From individuals to societies and consuming to creating Anjala S. Krishen, University of Nevada Las Vegas, USA
Leveraging social media to understand consumer behavior Gina A. Tran, Florida Gulf Coast University, USA
Understanding and cultivating engaged consumers in digital channels Jamie Carlson, University of Newcastle, Australia
B2B Digital and social media marketing Jari Salo, University of Helsinki, Finland
Future direction on developing metrics and scales for digital content marketing which aims to foster consumers' experience and customer journey Mohammad Rahman, Shippensburg University, USA
Electronic Word of Mouth (eWOM) Raffaele Filieri, Audencia Business School, France
Reflections on social media marketing research: present and future perspectives Jenny Rowley, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Augmented reality marketing: Introducing a new paradigm Philipp A. Rauschnabel, Universität der Bundeswehr München, Germany
Responsible artificial intelligence (AI) perspective on social media marketing Yichuan Wang, University of Sheffield, UK
How AI would affect digital marketing? A practitioner view Vikram Kumar and Ramakrishnan Raman, Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, India
Dyad mobile advertising framework for the Future Research Agenda: marketers’ and consumers’ Perspectives Varsha Jain, MICA, India
Research on mobile marketing Heikki Karjaluoto, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Crossing to the dark side of social and digital marketing: Insights and research avenues Hajer Kefi, PSB - Paris School of Business, France
Ethical issues in digital and social media marketing Jenna Jacobson, Ryerson University, Canada

3.1. Contribution 1 - digital marketing & humanity: from individuals to societies and consuming to creating - Anjala S. Krishen

Several recent studies examine hypothesized links between humanness, or human-like physical or evolutionary characteristics and ascriptions of humanity and social perceptions (e.g. Wang et al., 2019). Humanness, or lack of dehumanization, is associated with the possession of sophisticated cognitive and agentic capacities and emotional and experiential responsiveness (Deska et al., 2018). Humanity and humanness, while intertwined, are not synonymous. Humanity is not simply defined as a collection of human beings; it is also characterized by the enactment of compassion, sympathy, generosity, kindness, and benevolence (c.f. Krishen and Berezan, 2019). In this age of digitization and analytics, societies are grappling with intersections – human-computer, human-machine, and human-human (race, religion, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, country-of-origin, etc.), among others. At each of these intersections lies another challenge for humanity, especially in relation to digital vulnerability. Research is needed to further understand how digital marketing relates to humanity. To grow this body of research, we offer three aspects of individuals as dimensions of their humanity: (1) individuals as seekers of capital, including informational, intellectual, social and cultural, (2) individuals existing and functioning with change, agency, and empowerment, and (3) individuals as progressively moving forward and creating capital. As conduits to these dimensions lies digitization and multiple intersections of communication.

3.1.1. Conceptual framework and research proposition

In Fig. 1, we propose a humanity framework. Various facets of individuals enacting humanity are depicted in clouds (certain ones are at the forefront); the lower level (such as information seekers) shows dimensions which are more tied to consumption while the upper level ones (such as knowledge creators) are more tied to creation.

Fig. 1
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Fig. 1. Digital Marketing and Humanity Conceptual Model.

3.1.1.1. Seeking capital: information, social, and cultural

Individuals spend much of their time consuming. This consumption can be tangible (e.g. physical objects) or intangible (e.g. relationships). Digital and social media marketing provide a mechanism by which to gather vast amounts of information, a phenomenon known as information overload (Hu and Krishen, 2019). To counter the overload, sophisticated hardware and software solutions enable adaptive choice sets and recommended products and services (Krishen, Raschke, and Kachroo, 2011). As seekers of social and cultural capital, consumers participate in multiple forms of social media; ideally, this could lead to a lived experience of mindfulness, happiness and belonging. Paradoxically, digital marketing simultaneously enables negative mental health issues (e.g. loneliness; Berezan, Krishen, Agarwal, and Kachroo, 2020 forthcoming) while facilitating solutions to them (e.g. social marketing campaigns encouraging mindful consumption; Bahl et al., 2016).

Proposition: In the process of seeking various types of capital through digital marketing platforms, consumers experience both positive (benefits or “gets”) and negative (costs or “gives”) effects.

3.1.1.2. Encountering change, agency, and empowerment

Cultural agency refers to an analytical lens for understanding individual actions and decisions as emergent from interactions between public and private experiences and ideas; for example, the purchase or desire for skin lightening creams stems from complex layers of individual agency and public hegemonic discourses (Wong & Krishen, 2019). The digital marketing ecosystem provides an environment within which individuals encounter change, agency, and empowerment. Digital marketing can enable consumers to access vast amounts of knowledge regarding diverse populations throughout the world: some who share similar ideas and others who live in completely different environments. This ability to understand and interact with multiple cultures and societies through online forums, support groups, information repositories, eWOM postings, and so on, has the potential to facilitate greater intersectionality, diversity, and inclusiveness throughout humanity. For example, through online representation via Twitter, fourth wave feminists can champion discussions and debates, mobilize social justice, and become change agents with organized political activities, and create allies, collaborations, and coalitions (Zimmerman, 2017). Alongside the ability to learn about other people and environments, individuals have access to information that can enable them to make data-driven decisions with potentially higher quality data (Zahay et al., 2014). Technologies also allow consumers to act as agents, empowered or unempowered, as they traverse the marketplace. For instance, fitness trackers enable social networks to share common health goals and track individual and group progress.

Proposition: Digital marketing platforms provide forums though which consumers can work across boundaries in a plethora of ways, including: 1) as empowered agents seeking to collaborate, 2) as data-driven decision makers enabling transparency, and 3) as social change humanitarians spreading knowledge through their voices.

3.1.1.3. Moving forward and creating capital

As a facilitator of intellectual capital, digital and social media marketing allows consumers to circulate new knowledge through complex gatekeeping processes that track both its quality as well as its popularity. Creativity is not limited to written knowledge and spans products and services that can be self-created (do-it-yourself), a process that can lead to greater well-being and mindful consumption (Brunneder and Dholakia, 2018). Through transformational leadership, individuals as part of teams can convert cognitive diversity to team creativity (Wang et al., 2016). These creative processes and systems exist in face-to-face environments but also in digital and social media ones, which often provide additional tools and mechanisms (Iacobucci et al., 2019).

Proposition: Digital marketing platforms have the potential to unlock multiple forms of creativity and knowledge alongside the sophistication to carefully link them together.

As shown in Fig. 1, digital and social media marketing provides a backdrop to humanity and humane individuals, one that can serve as both a positive and negative force. The challenges to humanity in the digital environment (e.g. information overload) can be overcome with tools and mechanisms that build credible knowledge and facilitate data-driven decisions.

3.2. Contribution 2 - leveraging social media to understand consumer behavior - Gina A. Tran

Daily, the average individual spends 2 h and 23 min on social networking sites; this time is spent reading the news, researching products and staying in touch with friends (Global Web Index Social Flagship Report, 2019). Given the prevalence of social media within consumers’ lives, it is clear that organizations must effectively use social media marketing to reach potential markets. However, social media marketing presents unique challenges for both practitioners and researchers, as the lack of validated scales, constant changes in social media platforms (including emerging platforms) and use of social network analysis, is needed to understand how information shared on social media influences consumers.

3.2.1. Lack of validated scales

One of the challenges of researching social media marketing is the lack of appropriate constructs (Cooper, Stavros, & Dobele, 2019) and validated scales (Tran et al., 2019) to test the potential models of how social media usage impacts consumption behaviors. While existing scales may be adapted for the context of social media, this approach is not always successful (Tran et al., 2019). The scales currently available do not fully capture and measure the complexity of social media. For example, no scale currently exists to measure the level of perceived connectedness via social media between an individual to others, as well as perceived connectedness via social media between an individual to a brand. It would be interesting to explore these relationships and the link between perceived connectedness and behavioral outcomes, such as brand awareness, electronic word-of-mouth intentions and purchase intentions. One recommendation for future research is the development of scales germane to social media and the capabilities of social media.

3.2.2. Changes in social media

With social media platforms in perpetual beta mode, which is the consistent release of new functions, change is a constant in social media platforms. This makes it challenging to research social media marketing and the metrics associated with social media. While some social media metrics may remain consistent, such as number of followers, likes and shares, other metrics emerge that may be useful. For example, social media influencers, also known as influencers, are individuals with the ability to influence others by promoting and recommending brands and market offerings on social media. The influencer marketing industry is expected to be $15 billion by 2022 (Schomer, 2019) and metrics such as customer influence effect, stickiness index and customer influence value (Kumar & Mirchandani, 2012) have emerged as key factors in evaluating possible influencers to share information about the brand, increase brand awareness and promote electronic word-of-mouth conversations about the brand. Another concern is the problem of decreasing organic reach, which is the number of people who have viewed the content at no cost to the marketer (Tuten & Solomon, 2018). Between 2013 and 2018, the expected organic reach of a brand’s Facebook post dropped from 12 % to 5 % (Tips for Increasing Organic Reach, 2019). With the improving algorithms and surge in number of posts, brands must work harder to gain attention and boost organic reach, which is proving to be more problematic. Beyond the continual changes in existing social media platforms, another concern is the development of new social media platforms.

New social media platforms are introduced and begin to grow in popularity and gain new followers, representing both opportunities and challenges for social media marketing. With the different social media platforms, there may be varying capabilities for brands to interact with individuals, which means social media marketing managers must learn to adapt to effectively use the platform to reach consumers. Furthermore, perhaps new marketing strategies for the new social media platforms must be created to gain customer leads and enhance consumer engagement. For academics researching social media marketing, the novel social media platforms also present opportunities for additional research, including potentially comparing the different platforms, exploring how and why individuals may use the various social media for distinct purposes and developing or modifying metrics for measuring return on investment.

3.2.3. Social network analysis

Social network analysis involves studying networks of people, where each individual is a node. The social structure of connections and ties between nodes are investigated and characterized in social network analysis (Wasserman & Faust, 1995). Social network analysis has been researched in relation to electronic word-of-mouth (Sohn, 2009), identifying influencers (Zhang & Li, 2014) and investigating how individuals influence others, the relationship between influence and tie strength and the flow of information through social media (Gandomi & Haider, 2015). However, there are still gaps in the social network analysis of social media usage literature.

One possible avenue for research may be to explore how consumers’ motivations for sharing information via social media impact others’ perceptions of the message, which is particularly interesting given the phenomenal growth of the influencer industry. An extension of this research is to examine if and how influencers’ use of paid advertisements, sponsorships and partnerships affects followers in the social network. Experimental or quasi-experimental designs may be employed to determine if nodes pay attention to the paid advertisements on social media, and how this may interact with the nodes’ reactions, shares and comments on the influencers’ non-organic posts. Beyond influencers, it would be fruitful to research the potential negative effects of what happens when a node views the same message on social media multiple times. Is there a point where there is a negative effect of exposure to the same information shared by too many nodes? Perhaps the information about the number of shares, comments and reactions on social media may dilute the impact of the relevant information (Nisbett et al., 1981). The potential findings of such research may have both theoretical and managerial implications for understanding consumers.

Often, both academics and practitioners focus on understanding how positive electronic word-of-mouth messages travel through nodes in social networks. However, there is also value in examining negative electronic word-of-mouth in social networks, as recommended by Pfeffer, Zorbach, and Carley (2014). These researchers defined the term online firestorm as the “phenomenon involving waves of negative indignation on social media platforms,” which has affected brands, organizations, politicians and celebrities following the release of less than desirable information (Pfeffer et al., 2014, p. 125). Future research may explore how the technical capabilities of specific social networking sites, an individual’s social identity, altruistic tendencies and commitment towards the organization impacts the individual’s propensity to share negative word-of-mouth messages. In addition, it would be interesting to use social network analysis to investigate how in-group and out-group members are likely to transmit negative word-of-mouth information, as well as the potential influence of negative messages on these nodes (Balaji et al., 2016).

It would be intriguing to compare how negative versus positive electronic word-of-mouth travels through a social network online. The velocity of information flow, volume of information shared, network clusters and cross-posts on different social media may be analyzed and compared for negative and positive electronic word-of-mouth. To conduct this research, a social networking platform that allows all viewers to see the nodes, ties and frequency of reactions and comments may be used. A quasi-experimental design approach may be used to select the nodes; an event or noteworthy news article would be shared to these nodes. Data on the number of times the node viewed, shared and commented on the event and the impact of these numbers may be explored to better understand how viral marketing works. It would be interesting to potentially measure the speed of the information flow, which may be possible with the advanced technical designs of the social media platform. Based on the research limitations and gaps outlined above, the two propositions are formulated hereafter to help guide future research on this topic.

3.2.4. Research propositions

When individuals make judgments, the dilution effect occurs when people fail to use diagnostic information in the presence of nondiagnostic information (Nisbett et al., 1981). For social media marketing, the dilution effect may occur when consumers view the number of reactions and comments about a message, which serve as the nondiagnostic details. The message is the diagnostic information. However, if the number of reactions and comments on the social media platform is too high, perhaps that may serve to dilute the effect of the diagnostic message details and serve to negatively impact the individual’s judgment of the information. The following is proposed.

Proposition: On social media platforms, a) the number of reactions and comments positively impacts the individual’s perception of the message to a peak point; b) beyond the peak point, the number of reactions and comments negatively impacts the individual’s perception of the message.

The immediacy of social media makes it easier for people to act on their altruistic impulse and use it to spread messages and propagate goodness (Tuten & Solomon, 2018). On the other hand, individuals may also decide to use social media for the purpose of altruistic punishment, which is bringing attention to a person or organization whose behavior is socially unacceptable (Rost et al., 2016). The altruistic punishment available through the use of negative messages on social media allows enforcement of the group’s social norms. To enforce the social norms on the offending person or organization, the negative word-of-mouth information is spread more quickly through a social network, when compared to positive word-of-mouth information. Thus, the following is postulated.

Proposition: In social networks, negative word-of-mouth information flows faster than positive word-of-mouth information.

3.2.5. Conclusion

With more consumers turning to social media use daily for activities such as reading the news, researching products and enjoying entertainment (GlobalWebIndex Social Flagship Report, 2019), organizations must strategically use social media marketing to appeal to their target audiences. However, challenges in using social media to reach consumers include lack of appropriate scales to measure and investigate constructs of interest, the constant changes in current and emerging social media platforms and the application of social network analysis to research the flow of electronic word-of-mouth messages and the influence on consumers’ attitude and behaviors of such information. We encourage researchers to conduct further research in these areas to better understand the phenomena of social media marketing to benefit both academics and practitioners.

3.3. Contribution 3 - understanding and cultivating engaged consumers in digital channels - Jamie Carlson

Over the past 20 years, marketing and IS academics and practitioners have observed the “digital transformation of marketing” where Digital and Social Media Technologies (D&SMT) have become firmly embedded into billions of people’s daily lives. D&SMT (e.g. e-commerce, online brand communities, digital advertising tactics, live chat services, mobile services) have since revolutionized the engineering of compelling customer experiences offering new ways to reach, inform, sell to, learn about, and provide service to customers that have an overarching social dimension (Lamberton and Stephen, 2016).

The dynamic, interactive exchanges enabled by D&SMT have led to consumers playing a far greater role in how they shape their own individual and communal-based experiences with brands (Carlson et al., 2018). This has strategic consequences on how customers engage with brands beyond transactions alone, a concept labelled as ‘customer engagement behaviors’ (CEBs) which is vital for contributing greater value for the organisation (van Doorn et al., 2010v). For instance, customers can create (destroy) value for an organisation through purchase related behaviors as well as through influencing others, generating knowledge exchanges and co-creation/developing behaviors with brands (c.f. Jaakkola and Alexander 2014Kumar et al., 2010).

As the proliferation of new technologies (e.g. artificial intelligence, robotic solutions, wearable technologies, augmented and virtual reality) continue to emerge, greater research focus is now needed to understand how brands can leverage these multitude of technologies to cultivate CEBs. Despite the excitement that such new technological capabilities afford managers in the construction of customer experiences, this often leads to confusion about when and how to deploy what information technology to maximize value creation opportunities during stages of the customer journey (Gartner Research 2019). In parallel, there have been calls for business and technology research to widen its boundaries and be more relevant to business practices that improves the lives of people in our societies, such as alignment to the U.N.’s Sustainability Development Goals (Dwivedi et al., 2019cRRPM, 2019). Through greater understanding of consumer expectations and preferences for engaging with brands through technology, organisations can then develop truly differentiated customer experiences that cultivate CEBs and greater value and well-being for them. As such, it is therefore necessary for consumer research to continue to examine and understand the mechanisms by which D&SMT can further unlock CEBs and improve consumer well-being.

Against this backdrop, this section outlines key challenges and opportunities around cultivating CEBs and consumer well-being in the D&SMT context and present a research agenda to stimulate further research enquiry.

3.3.1. Challenges and opportunities for research

The first challenge relates to customer experience (CX) design. Research emanating across IS and marketing literatures do indicate that CX-design of D&SMT plays a fundamental role in encouraging favorable customer behaviors towards brands (Carlson et al., 2018Kamboj et al., 2018). Nevertheless, consumers expect a seamless, integrated and holistic customer experience, regardless of the channel. Offering multi- or omnichannel consumption experiences, whereby interactions with a variety of digital channels and with real people (either phone or in-person) complement rather than compete with each other, enhances the overall customer experience (Bolton et al., 2018). However, despite channel integration efforts by organisations, recent market reports show that 54 % of UK customers are disappointed with their most recent experiences (Temkin Group, 2017). As such, the design and measurement of CX initiatives involving D&SMT and their integration will become paramount in order to unlock the full extent of CEBs and well-being to maximize mutual value fulfilment for the customer and the firm.

The second challenge concerns personalization. D&SMT provides significant opportunities for highly personalized communications. Here, brands can offer content and customized product recommendations resulting in greater customer satisfaction and CEB outcomes. Despite this, several challenges surface for consideration. First, given the growing availability of personalization options through D&SMT, customer brand evaluations are expected to increase. This has important implications for CX management as when customers develop habits to using specific technologies, their initial customer delight is expected to transfer to their realm of expectation (c.f. Rust and Oliver, 2000). A second challenge is managing the personalization/privacy paradox. Numerous corporate data breaches have led to government legislation for increased privacy e.g. The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), tighter data security and the consumer right to erase their information which has the degree of difficulty for marketers to build meaningful and authentic relationships with consumers through personalized experiences. Furthermore, when brands leverage collected customer data to provide relevant, personalized content, it might heighten some customers’ sense that the brand has some manipulative intent, which could spur privacy concerns (Aguirre et al., 2016). This has negative consequences for cultivating CEBs and their well-being where consumers are less likely to participate, for example, in sharing their motivations, preferences and desires with brands. Despite these challenges, the opportunity therein lies in understanding how to overcome these issues so that consumers are willing to disclose this information for personalization to more readily occur so that satisfied and loyal customers can be achieved.

The third challenge is associated with segmentation. With the increasing rate of media fragmentation and channel multiplicity, segmenting the marketplace has become vital. However, as D&SMT adoption intensifies in the marketplace, careful consideration is needed as to the development of technology-specific user segmentation. While many customers will use familiar technology (e.g. websites, mobile apps), technologies that are new or more peripheral to the market offering (e.g. interactive virtual assistance, social media to register complaints, self-serve technologies) will likely see varying adoption levels across customer segments, including in terms of demographics, psychographics, or brand- or marketing-related preferences. This will become a critical issue looking forward as by 2050, demographic trends indicate that society will contain growing numbers of aged population and consumers with disabilities, changing family roles and structures, and global migration (Fisk et al., 2018). As such, the opportunity arises for customer experiences through D&SMT to be designed for inclusion to account for the myriad of ways in which different segments of consumers can access and engage with brands.

The fourth challenge relates to innovation and collaboration. The use of D&SMT has enabled customers new opportunities for interacting and collaborating with brands in the innovation process (e.g. Carlson et al., 2018Kamboj et al., 2018). For instance, the increasing sophistication of online brand communities on social media have enabled opportunities for customers to become active collaborators that generate new ideas within these communities (e.g. My Starbucks Idea). Here, advancements in social media monitoring, text and image analysis techniques that “listen” to, and capture, customer-generated content enable ideation, sharing, product development and brand experience improvements (Humphreys and Wang 2017Villarroel Ordenes et al., 2018). As such, this requires organisations to prepare for and invest in their own adaptive capability to capture, manage and exploit these opportunities from customers to gain a deeper understanding of customers’ available resources and those they are willing to invest in particular brand-related interactions. This understanding can, in turn, be translated into customization tools to optimally cater for specific customer needs, wants or preferences (e.g. Lego Ideas customer co-creation platform).

3.3.2. Agenda for research and practice, and research propositions

The following paragraphs advance a set of research questions relating to the challenges and opportunities outlined above.

3.3.2.1. Customer experience (CX) design

Since consumers now live in a world in which most aspects of their lives can potentially intersect with digital, physical and social realms, it enables them to interact with brands seamlessly from almost any device. As a consequence, a discussion is occurring across industry and academia on how marketers can appropriately integrate and measure online and offline CX efforts (i.e., an omnichannel approach) (Lemon and Verhoef, 2016McColl-Kennedy et al., 2019). While various CE measurement frameworks exist for a single channel within the literature, what is missing is a measurement framework that shows how customers evaluate CX performance within an omnichannel environment in consideration of relevant cues and encounters across all channels (Ostrom et al., 2015Lemon and Verhoef, 2016). In this regard, the influence of simultaneously using many channels focused on a customer’s cognitive process of quality assessment and the attributes associated with a positive omnichannel experience, remains unclear (Ostrom et al., 2015). To address these issues, researchers need to clarify 1) what CX design attributes across different D&SMT channels are most conducive toward cultivating CEBs and customer well-being? How does this differ across industries, contexts and cultures? 2) How can organisations integrate and deliver superior cross-channel experiences that contribute to the formation of favorable CEBs and customer well-being? 3) How can brands leverage new CX via emerging technologies (e.g. augmented and virtual reality, voice activated assistants, wearable technologies) to cultivate CEB and well-being outcomes? These questions need to be addressed by further research, so the following proposition is offered:

Proposition: It is necessary to theorize a CX framework for D&SMT and its impact on CEB and well-being, therefore an integrated conceptual framework is needed to provide a systematic understanding of CX design in a D&SMT-driven omnichannel context.

3.3.2.2. Personalization

With the advancement of technologies that support managing customer data across channels, brands are well positioned to analyze customer behaviors and provide personalized offerings that maximize customer satisfaction. However, to overcome the personalization / privacy paradox and customer trust issues with brands, researchers need to consider the following issues that arise. For instance, based on the social exchange theoretical premise that the firm's delivery of valuable, consistent content to (prospective) buyers, will see these rewarding the firm in exchange with their future loyalty (Blau 1964); what strategies can motivate consumers to participate in CEBs, such as provide their preference information across various D&SMT? Are customers motivated differently on different touchpoints? What role does digital literacy regarding privacy play? What strategies are most effective for dealing with consumer privacy concerns that prevent CEB outcomes in digital channels? e.g. Are younger generations really less concerned about privacy, and will that last as they age? What customer traits may influence/block sharing behavior with brands on D&SMT? As such, more research is needed to better understand the combination of factors that affect (and prevent) the enhancement of personalization opportunities for consumers to better satisfy their needs. Considering the importance of customer attitudes towards privacy and its implications for greater personalization in D&SMT’s, the following proposition is advanced:

Proposition: There is a necessity to fully understand the facilitators, barriers and individual customer characteristics that will affect the success of personalization to better cultivate CEB and well-being

3.3.2.3. Segmentation

While pure technology driven service delivery may yield efficiency gains for brands, managers may wish to retain a level of human service contact, particularly for those customers exhibiting a preference for these over technology-driven interactions (e.g. vulnerable consumers such as the elderly, low digital literacy skills, sensory deterioration issues) (Fisk et al., 2018). Within this context, rapidly evolving technological and societal developments require brands to constantly consider their customer segments to reflect different channel preference structures for digital interactions to maintain their relevance, accuracy and maximize inclusion. As such, further research opportunities include: which combination of variables are most effective in segmenting customers in D&SMT channels? What role does technology preference play in this mix? What CX design elements need to be tailored to meet different customer D&SMT needs, which may differ across product offerings, industry sectors or over time? What are the technology preferences for vulnerable customers that enable them to better participate in CEB’s with brands? Therefore, the following proposition is offered:

Proposition: In a growing heterogenous marketplace, there is a necessity to fully understand the configuration of segmentation bases in the context of D&SMT for cultivating CEBs and well-being.

3.3.2.4. Innovation and collaboration

As previously discussed, the multitude of D&SMT provides significant potentialities for cultivating CEBs for the purpose of innovation capture.

While success factors affecting the use of D&SMT for capturing innovation opportunities have been studied from the customer (e.g. Carlson et al., 2018Nambisan and Baron 2009) and firm perspectives (e.g. Muninger et al., 2019Zhang et al., 2019), more needs to be known on identifying the critical success factors affecting the current use of emerging technologies. In light of these opportunities for developing innovation generating capabilities, the following research opportunities emerges from both the customer and firm perspectives: How can brands leverage new technologies (e.g. AI, augmented and virtual reality, voice activated assistants, wearable technologies) with current technologies to cultivate innovation behaviors from individuals, and the broader community of consumers? What D&SMT strategies, activities or initiatives enhance how customers participate in innovation related behaviors (e.g. share new ideas, co-production)? What motivates customers to invest their own resources (i.e. time, skill, knowledge) for participating in CEBs related to innovation with brands through D&SMT? What is the interplay between customer traits (e.g. innovativeness, brand involvement, technology readiness) and attributes of technological platforms in this process? What firm capabilities are required to capture, manage and exploit these innovation opportunities from customers to gain a deeper understanding of them? On this basis, the following proposition is advanced:

Proposition: There are a set of critical factors at the individual and organizational level that will positively affect D&SMT’s success for cultivating innovation related CEBs and well-being.

3.3.3. Concluding statement

IS and Marketing scholars have an essential role to play in shaping the agenda of how D&SMT can cultivate CEBs in the future and generate greater value for the profit and non-profit organisation. However, to contribute meaningfully, it must be noted that greater interdisciplinary awareness between IS and marketing scholarship is required to unveil novel insights to achieve CEB objectives. It is anticipated that the research agenda will be useful for scholars to stimulate new insights that inform and guide how practitioners may harness technology to deliver greater benefits for the customer, their well-being, and ultimately stronger customer-brand relationships. To date, there has been growing research activity in the literature related to CEB, and many important and noteworthy contributions to knowledge have been made. To advance the knowledge base further forward, particularly given the fast-moving nature of digital settings, research that attempts to broaden our understandings of CEB, and examines new and evolving technologies that enhance the customer experience that impacts society as a whole will be most valuable.

3.4. Contribution 4 - B2B Digital and social media marketing - Jari Salo

3.4.1. Theoretical advances

Computers and artificial intelligence have been used for decades to help digitalize business processes in and within companies in the buyer-seller relationships as well as to attract and keep customers. Martínez-López and Casillas (2013) provide complete review of industrial marketing deployment of artificial intelligence e.g. in segmenting and pricing from 1970s to 2013. Continuing from that Syam and Sharma (2018) provide a detailed overview impacts of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) on personal sales and sales management. They also detail an overview of worthy research areas that are still relevant. In addition, ML and IoT has been focused from a more systemic perspective i.e. business model innovation (Leminen et al., 2019), where authors found four different types of architypes of business models that are utilized by different B2B companies. Also IoT and ML studies are reviewed in detail by Leminen et al. (2019). Since, the publication of Leminen et al. (2019)Suppatvech, Godsell and Day (2019) provide a literature review on how IoT is linked to industrial services. They provide four architype models with add on, sharing, usage-based and solution oriented where degree and intensity of IoT usage varies. At a more fine grained level, Liu (2019) utilizes big data analysis and ML methods to show that negative user-generated content – customer sentiment has negative impact on stock performance. The ever increasing popularity of big data research and big data skills have spilled over to an industrial context. Sun, Hall and Cegielski (2019) build an integrated view to explain the decision to adopt big data. They show that relative advantage and technology competence are key factors when planning the adoption. B2B companies face challenges in digital marketing technology investment decisions (Sena and Ozdemir, 2019) as well as on deciding how and what skills to develop (Sousa and Rocha 2019). Data, big or small, is analyzed in multiple ways by B2B companies. Different types of analytics are used (big data, web and social media among others) to identify possibilities to increase marketing performance (Järvinen and Karjaluoto, 2015), automate marketing activities (Järvinen and Taiminen 2016) and better social media marketing (SMM) (Sivarajah et al. 2019). Besides big data, IoT and ML also virtual and augmented reality trials have been popular in the industrial field as well which have also resulted in some research. Laurell et al. (2019) study barriers to adopt virtual reality which are - lack of sufficient technological performance and limited amount of applications.

SMM in the context of business markets has witnessed a steady increase in the number of publications as the review of literature indicates (Salo, 2017). Since the publication of Salo (2017) and other related systematic literature reviews on sales (Ancillai et al. 2019) and advertising (Cortez et al., 2019), several scholars have approached industrial SMM. Subsequent to the publication of the aforementioned reviews on SMM, traditional areas of B2B marketing such as advertising, marketing communicationsstrategic management, sales and NPD have been of interest to those who utilize social media lenses in their research. Within advertising, two recent publications are discussed. First, with help of a hierarchy-of-effects theory Juntunen, Ismagilova, and Oikarinen (2019) study the use of Twitter by world’s leading B2B companies. They identify from an advertising perspective that companies use Twitter for creating awareness, knowledge and trust, interest and liking amongst their followers by both strategic and tactical means. Interestingly, purchase, preference and conviction are much less advertised. Twitter feed scraping is gaining popularity among B2B marketers as a similar study was conducted by McShane, Pancer and Poole (2019) while focusing on a fluency perspective. From a marketing communications point of view, Magno and Cassia (2019) survey 160 companies and find that thought leadership (similar to influencer marketing within a business to consumer context) via SMM, has a positive influence on brand performance and customer performance. Additionally, they highlight that specific thought leadership capabilities could emerge that support social media capabilities. Similarly to Magno and Cassia (2019)Foltean, Trif and Tuleu (2019) are interested in these capabilities and survey 149 companies. It was shown that social media technology improves the CRM capabilities of a B2B company. Besides capabilities, acquiring new customers i.e. sales is pertinent function in the B2B marketing field as indicated by the two reviews. Iankova et al. (2019) identify that SMM is used in all stages of the customer engagement cycle for acquiring new customers. From the new product development point of view, Cheng and Krumwiede (2018) studied supply chains. By surveying 367 Taiwanese companies they found that market and technological-knowledge processing capabilities strengthens the positive effect of using social media in the new product development process with the involved supplier.

3.4.2. Limitations of research and practice

Some limitations of research and practice can be identified from the existing research. First, one can see that previous studies still to some extent, rely on comparison with B2C and B2B which is rather unorthodox method and provides limited information for industrial marketing scholars. Second, several studies still rely on relatively small sample sizes (about 75 companies) in surveys as well as a relatively small amount of key-account interviews (e.g. seven experts) conducted. Third, even though web scraping and utilizing e.g. netnography in qualitative research is gaining popularity, these need to be linked with objective measures. A Limited amount of research in general, exists that utilizes objective measures, which can correspond to a lack of real-world relevance. Fourth, it seems that sales and advertising are still pertinent areas of focus while the scholars could also deepen our understanding in other areas of industrial marketing (e.g. buyer-seller relationships).

3.4.3. Agenda for future research

Based on the meta-analysis of the existing systematic literature reviews and research, one can highlight some future research areas. First, B2B research will see in the future B2B companies using more of their resources to content marketing that is geared toward lead generation e.g. via A/B tested email campaigns. Second, many B2B companies are still lacking skills in SEM especially SEO which links to customer insights creation with 360-degree video as well as immersive (AR-VR) content or any interactive content for that matter. Third, in the realm of website design predictions are that customers are increasingly focused on page speed download times among other factors which leads to website experience optimization unless 5 G will be adopted at faster rates. Fourth, B2B companies have increasingly adopted different types of website and social media analytics tools which desperately needs research especially on effectiveness of current data dashboard and visualizations, are we focusing on the right issues? As is the case with consumer markets, B2B market companies will increasingly use predictive or behavioral marketing tactics leading to an increased use of learning e.g. with bacterial algorithms. Fifth, some industries such as finance and food are likely to be interested in applying digital technologies such as blockchain, cloud computing, thin clients, remote monitoring and sensors that alter not only the buyer-seller relationship, but also customer behavior. All these technologies can be used in different B2B categories (Salo, 2017). Considering the above discussion and help guidance for future research, the following two propositions are offered.

3.4.4. Research propositions

It can be synthesized, with some hesitation from the previous B2B digital and social media marketing review, and proposed as a core of future research that digital technologies in broad (including AI, platforms, IoT, Machine learning, big data, different digital analytic and visualization tools) are changing in ever increasing pace B2B digital and social media marketing. This poses a challenge to theory testing and building as different types of digital technologies influence marketing sub-domains (Reid and Plank 2000) and empirical contexts (industries) in different ways. Besides, these challenges to theoretical advancements are also an ethical dilemma as part of the general opinion, with some parts of the research community having woken up to the dark side of the ever-increasing volume of data and opaque predictive algorithms.

Proposition: Digital technologies are increasingly changing digital and social media marketing in the context of B2B.

In order to extend the previously mentioned core research focus where theoretical advances are sought for in B2B Digital and social media marketing one has also adapt novel research methodologies. Both case studies and surveys have been traditionally popular method of gaining new insights in the field of B2B marketing and business studies at large. Still, relatively little of the digital research methods, that offer, in many situations objective data are fully utilized. Digital analytics tools (Järvinen 2016), neuroscience (Bear et al. 2020), motion, voice and other sensors (e.g. Nguyen 1997Heikenfeld 2016), netnography (Kozinets 2010), data scraping and mining (Munzert et al. 2014) provide novel data and data triangulation possibilities (Patton 1987). Hence, it is proposed that in future we embrace the plurality of research methods, be it used for mixed or single method research.

Proposition: Digital research methods with objective data are to be widely employed in understanding digital and social media marketing in the context of B2B.

3.5. Contribution 5 - future direction on developing metrics and scales for digital content marketing which aims to foster consumers' experience and customer journey - Mohammad Rahman

Recent growth in digital content marketing (DCM) due to how consumers search for information, is intensifying the competition within industries. This has led to an intensive focus on scholarships in the areas of marketing metrics, social media, email strategy, consumer experience, consumer engagement, online advertising, search engine optimization (SEO) and overall DCM. Additionally, traditional concepts of advertising, focusing campaigns on Procter & Gamble's "Moments of Truth" concept, disrupted by the search engine giants such as Google (Moran et al., 2014). According to Google (2019), 88 % of shopper interaction occurs before they interact with a particular brand and 94 % of B2B buyers are performing online research before they engage with that particular enterprise. This scenario creates fierce competition in the DCM area where enterprises from large to small end up vying for ranking on top of Google’s organic search results (Howells-Barby, 2019). Thus, we can state that DCM is a really big deal for enterprises and current industry practice, which is constantly changing to suit Google's rank brain algorithm (Moz, 2019) to increase organic traffic to the site. Hence, enhancing DCM strategies to implement increased customer knowledge by listening to the customer and gathering data rather than shouting to the customer, becomes apparent in the realm of DCM. It is also about optimizing customer experiences by reducing barriers for the customer to obtain information and interaction (engagement) with the brand. DCM is about knowing your customers' insight and thinking from the customer’s journey regarding why they are on Google to search for an answer for a particular problem/question and providing those answers/solutions. This is where content, user experience and engagement design comes first.

We all know what is happening. Digital media spending is up and traditional media spending is down. Media viewership is a direct relationship with age – the younger the media the younger the audience. In the meantime, Google now processes over 40,000 search queries every second (Statista, 2019). The world's largest search engine is handling an unconceivable number of searches on an hourly basis. Rather difficult statistics to grasp, but, “If like most people, you read at a rate of about three words per second, between the time you started reading this article and finish this sentence there will have been 11.3 million Google searches worldwide” (Rooney, 2017). Although searches on desktop have been gradually falling, it is on mobile devices where Google's continued growth has come from. The search has moved from text to voice where DCM needs to design for the moments (in your car, on the go) and content must be constructed to answer questions vs simply targeting keywords. As more and more people become connected, wherever they are in the world, this figure is likely to continue to rise. Thus, DCM strategy is reaching a wide range of customers, conducting specific placement targeting and increasing engagement with customers. DCM needs to reach prospective customers searching for specific services or products and develop real-time results thus indicating its importance as a relationship marketing tool.

DCM has the ability to grab consumers' shorter attention spans in the environment of multi-screen and multitasking where consumers are exposed to a higher quantity of media in a lower quality of time. In a background of growing digital competition amongst enterprises to earn consumer engagement and trust (Hollebeek & Macky, 2019), DCM is the pathway to nurture credibility, control, and visibility in the continued divergence of media consumption. However, regardless of some scholarly research (Aswani et al., 2018Carlson et al., 2018Järvinen & Taiminen, 2016) in the area of DCM and social media marketing metrics providing practitioners with the tools to measures the return on investment (Kakkar, 2017), relevant research is still lacking.

To optimize digital strategy and implement DCM effectiveness, practitioners require an adaptive mindset, a willingness to engage in continuous learning, and the ability to visualize and implement unique, value-creating DCM within a broader marketing background. Thus, digital and social media marketing analytics is of growing importance, facilitated by creating brilliant, meaningful brand owned experiences for customers to interact with and engage. The solution falls apart without compelling, relevant, content that connects to each customer’s needs and preferences to develop a personalized experience. It requires an equal combination of strategy, creativity, and technology to find the quality of customer insights, thereby contributing to consumer and firm-based brand equity development.

It is important to gain control over the entire content life cycle by rank and prioritizing content, develop a content outline and begin information architecture to deliver personalized experiences to customers. Creating personalized content which matters to your customers requires content development teams of front-end developers who are able to build solutions for not only your websites, but mobile apps, social apps, marketing automation integrations, email marketing, interactive infographics, iBooks, eBooks, digital direct mail pieces, and so on. Today, marketers are facing a content crisis: they cannot produce content fast enough because of disjointed systems, inability to collaborate, duplication of work and the sheer volume of needed content.

A marketer cannot solve content crisis simply by working harder: they need a plan, a process, and the right technology. DCM is the hot new thing that is as old as marketing itself. It is about compelling, relevant and timely storytelling that resonates with your prospects. Content is not just “what” but also “how” to disperse through paid, owned and earned media.

Given DCM's relatively short history, little is known regarding its optimal design and implementation. The following sample research questions may assist scholars to develop research topics which will have some practical implication for the marketers. They are:

  • Does DCM affect e-mail open rate, generating leads and loyalty and how to measure those relationships with theoretical underpinnings?

  • Does DCM affect online reputation, building positive search results via Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness?

  • Does DCM affect the value and perception of the brand, leading to engagement and creating loyalty?

  • How does DCM that is relevant, personalized and speaking to specific goals, needs, pains and desires of customers build trust and engagement?

  • What emotions do consumers have along the customer’s journey/mapping when searching for answers to a problem/question? What are the highs? The lows?

  • How do consumers frame and evaluate their digital content experiences? What do they expect from DCM marketers?

  • How to distribute relevant, valuable content that is personalized to specific goals, needs, pains, and desires.

  • How important is it for DCM marketers to “Think Human” and relate to three important questions: 1) Know your audience, 2) Know their journey; and 3) Know what matters in developing digital content.

  • How does the customer’s journey and the importance of the advocacy stage towards building trust for your brand in the social media marketing process lead to engagement?

  • How does paid, owned and earned digital media can gain visibility, control and credibility in this digital content marketing environment?

  • Google has approached SEO in 2019 by focusing on three big areas, a) The shift from answers to journeys, b) The shift from queries to providing a query less way to obtain information, and c) The shift from text to voice and a more visual option of finding information. What strategies can we offer to develop metrics and scales for the DCM managers to implement?

In conclusion, digital content marketing, today, is very important for marketers, and academics alike. At the same time, digital marketing is an innovative way to reach potential customers worldwide. Hence, increasing importance in building trust and engaging customers with relevant, specific and useful content of more volume which resonates with your business and target markets is essential in digital storytelling.

3.5.1. Research propositions

In this section, two propositions are developed to encapsulate the theoretical and practical arguments outlined in the previous section. Their development draws on further elaboration of the concept of Digital Content Marketing (DCM) and how customer experience and customer journey comes into play when it comes to delivering on relevant, specific and targeted DCM from the brand.

For instance, Hollebeek and Macky (2019) suggest that consumer engagement in the DCM context includes elements of multi-tier interaction between the brand and its consumers. These intra-interaction consequences such as consumers' cognitive, emotional, and behavioral engagement with the brand thus trigger extra-interaction consequences of brand trust and attitude thus developing brand equity through the DCM strategy.

Lamberton and Stephen’s (2016) comprehensive examination of the literature suggests that a DCM offers several benefits to customers including exploratory and positive behaviors that directly benefit the brand (cf. Appel et al. 2019Dabbous & Barakat, 2020Leeflang et al. 2014). Drawing upon and synthesizing the aforementioned works in marketing and information systems literature examining customers' interactions with brand-related stimuli (Digital Content in the paid, owned or earned media) on a digital platform. Customer experience with Digital Content refers to a customer’s perception of their interactive and integrative participation with a brand’s content in any digital media (Judy & Bather, 2019).

3.5.1.1. Customer experience states and DCM

In the emerging digital marketing literature, scholars in a variety of consumption contexts contend and empirically demonstrate that consumer experience exerts a direct influence on a customer’s evaluation of a brand. For example, Järvinen and Taiminen (2016) find support for consumer experience with digital content from the brand has the potential to influence future digital consumption intention in multiple digital media outlets.

Because the psychological states of consumer experiences influence a variety of behaviors including those beyond purchasing, the nature of these relationships in the branded digital content context may be transferable to consumer engagement behaviors of sharing intentions (Carlson et al., 2019). Specifically, future studies can argue conceptually, as to suggest that consumptions experience states relate to the experiences and associated value judgments involving cognitive, emotional and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli (e.g., Carlson et al. 2018; Vivek et al., 2014). Customers reciprocate when they derive benefits from the experiences relating to their consumer experience states; such that they develop sharing intentions (Carlson et al. 2019Yasin et al. 2020). Thus, our first proposition is as follows:

Proposition: Digital consumption experience related to branded content positively relate to digital content sharing intentions.

3.5.1.2. Conditional impact of DCM on the customer journey

According to the earlier argument concerning the likely impact of digital content sharing intentions of digital customers with positive consumptions experience, customers possibly demonstrate the same levels of sharing intentions (de Vries and Carlson, 2014). A customer’s journey towards finding solutions to their questions by evaluating digital content consistency in terms of authority, trust and reputation (Ray, 2019), plays a critical role in our theorizing and should affect customers’ participation with the brand’s future digital content evaluations (i.e. digital consumption experience). Drawing from these combined insights, we argue that under conditions of branded digital contents that speak to customers with authority, trust and reputation should then be viewed as helping the consumer in their journey by enabling specific, relevant and timely access to information. This being the case, we propose: