The Chinese government has developed sophisticated methods to monitor and repress the social-media activities of its ‘netizens’. Internet censorship in China also reflects the tangled relationship Beijing presently has with Western internet companies.
Prepared by: ISN staff
This week we have tried to determine just how much the internet and social media empower individuals or aid and abet corrupt and coercive regimes. Our unsurprising conclusion is that such media is Janus-faced – it does indeed liberate and repress. In the latter case, governments have become increasingly sophisticated in how they use the internet to maintain their grip on power. In this respect, the Chinese government’s manipulation of social media to monitor and repress the activities of its ‘netizens’ stands out as a representative case study – a negative case study, unfortunately, that also reflects the tangled relationship Beijing presently has with Western internet companies.
Social unrest, social media, and Chinese censorship
Control and manipulation of mass media outlets has been part of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CPC) mandate for generations. However, the emergence of the internet and social media such as Facebook (not to mention micro-blogging sites like Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter) prompted a change in the CPC’s approach to monitoring and censoring media outlets – i.e., it decided to decentralize its traditional oversight of China’s mass media. But it was only after a number of ‘ mass incidents’ (the official term for civil unrest in China) that Beijing developed a strategic approach to protect CPC ideology in cyberspace.