Challenging Official Propaganda? Public Opinion Leaders on Sina Weibo.

27 September 2016

This article examines the prominence of various user categories as opinion leaders, defined as initiators, agenda setters or disseminators, in 29 corruption cases exposed on SinaWeibo. It finds that ordinary citizens made up the largest category of initiators but that their power of opinion leadership was limited as they had to rely on media organizations to spread news about the cases. News organizations and online media were the main opinion leaders. Government and Party bodies initiated a fair number of cases and, despite not being strong agenda setters or disseminators, were able to dominate public opinion owing to the fact that news organizations and online media mainly published official announcements about the cases. Media organizations also played a secondary role as the voice of the people. While individuals from some other user categories were able to become prominent opinion leaders, news workers are likely to be the most promising user category to challenge official propaganda.