What Influences the Willingness of Chinese WeChat Users to Forward Food-Safety Rumors?

Shuo Seah, Gabriel Weimann


With the rapid development of social media, the management of online rumors on food safety has become an important issue. The precondition of effectively preventing and treating food safety problems lies in discovering the factors that influence the spreading of rumors. In this exploratory study, we investigate the factors that influence the willingness of Chinese WeChat users to forward food-safety rumors from the perspective of rumor audience. We first construct a theoretical model and put forward certain hypotheses relating variables such as rumor-content credibility, source credibility, and audience’s quality of rational criticism that influences the willingness to forward food-safety rumors. The empirical results show that WeChat food-safety rumors are characterized by obvious narrative features, dependence on professional sources, and highly realistic resonance. Stronger altruistic motive, content credibility, and source credibility lead to stronger audience willingness to forward rumors. However, the government and other authorities are generally viewed as ineffectively coping with the spread of such online rumors. This study’s findings suggest several ways to improve their counterrumor efforts on social media.


WeChat, health communication, food safety, rumors, risk communication

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