Countering the Counterpublics: Progovernment Online Media and Public Opinion in Hong Kong
Many studies have illustrated how digital media can facilitate political criticisms and protests, but recent scholarship has noted the ability of authoritarian states to control the Internet and undermine its oppositional character. This study focuses on the “hybrid regime” of Hong Kong, where the progovernment forces have tried to counteract the formation of an online counterpublic sphere by setting up numerous online outposts since the mid-2010s. It examines how exposure to progovernment online media content is related to political attitudes. In addition to a direct relationship, drawing on inoculation theory, this article contends that progovernment online media may also consolidate support for the government by neutralizing the influence of online alternative media. Survey data analysis shows that exposure to progovernment online media content indeed related to more conservative views, and the connection between online alternative media use and prodemocracy attitudes was weaker among older citizens regularly exposed to progovernment online media.