My larger research agenda is primarily focused on how digital technology and state power intertwine to shape information and politics in the global context. I have explored this question by conducting several studies thus far: the rise of big data surveillance infrastructure, the authoritarian media bias on Facebook, and the patterns of astroturfing and misinformation campaigns on Twitter. In these studies, I use computational methods and qualitative methods to address the entwinement and tension between technology and state power.
My most recent research examines the technological and political logic of a Chinese government platform called Xuexi Qiangguo (Study the Great Nation). The results suggest that the technical architectures of the platform enable identical information distribution while restricting content filtering, user network and customization. Thus, the state can centralize propaganda to one platform and then decentralize information to individual users and offline communities. Most notably, the platform enacts a scoring and ranking system to assess user behavior and performance based on everyday usage, indicating that the platform enables micro-targeting, real-time tracking, and classification. Thus, the relationship between platforms, end-users, and service providers has been replaced by state-citizens relations, thereby China’s propaganda has been fundamentally strengthened through the platformization.