Briefing: Popular WeChat ‘self-media’ account under pressure for fake news

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Mimeng and ‘Self-Media’ under Attack for Promoting Fake News Stories to Chinese Readers–What’s on Weibo

What happened: The group behind popular public WeChat account Mimeng, known for articles on relationships and love—as well as clickbait titles—came under fire earlier this month. Netizens called BS on a post from a separate public WeChat account run by the same group. In the article, the writer supposedly tells the story of a high-performing classmate from a poor family who died young. After readers cast doubt over aspects of the article, the account deleted the story and was in turn banned from posting for 60 days. The Mimeng group also announced it would place its flagship WeChat account on hiatus for two months, and close down its Weibo account indefinitely.

Why it’s important: Although not run by a formal media organization, Mimeng’s main WeChat account had racked up 13 million followers. Allegedly, it charged advertisers as much as RMB 750,000 ($113,000) to be mentioned in a post. While the veracity of its content may be dubious, it was a prominent example of how independently-run “self-media” groups–also known as “we-media”–can rake in major earnings. Its downfall also calls into the question the methods self-media organizations use to create and popularize content. Critics have called Mimeng’s style “poisoned chicken soup,” implying that moneymaking aims overtook any attempts to create quality content of the “chicken soup for the soul” variety.