1. Global Internet Activism
Week 9 Between Freedom and Control:
Citizen Journalism in China
last update: April 8, 2009
Trebor Scholz | LCST 4014 A | Spring 2009
2. Political Activism,
Advocacy, and Art Activism
week 1 Access, Censorship,
Social Media, and the
Citizen Media: from
Seattle to South Korea
War and Social Media: Serbia
War and Social Media: Iraq, Gaza
week 6 Spring Break
War and Social Media: Counter-publics
Iran, Afghanistan in Iran
week 8 week 9
Citizen Media in China
week 10 Japan, Singapore
A Better World in Second Life?
One Laptop Per Child
Cyber Publics in India
Trebor Scholz | The New School University | LCST 4014 A | Spring 2009
3. Citizen Journalism in China
March 31, April 2
David Kline and Dan Burstein, quot;Making Global Voices Heard,quot; David Kline and Dan Burstein,
Blog! (New York: eds books, 2005) 324-332.
Yang, Guobin. quot;Activists beyond Virtual Borders: Internet–Mediated Networks and
Informational Politics in China.quot; First Monday. 25 Aug. 2006. 14 Jan. 2009
Trebor Scholz | The New School University | LCST 4014 A | Spring 2009
4. ... networks raise the bar of political control and
facilitate participation in protest. Castells (1996)
argues that in an age of network society, power
functions by exclusion. Networks of resistance may
form from both within and without networks of
power. ... networks are not only a central source of
power, but also of resistance.
5. 1986 - The China Academic Network (CANET) is launched with help from the
Universität Karlsruhe in Germany.
History of the Net in China
October 1990 - The .cn international top level domain for China is registered
As China did not yet have direct Internet connectivity, the .cn name server was
housed at Universität Karlsruhe.
December 1992 - China's ﬁrst TCP/IP college network was et up at Tsinghua
May 1994 - China's ﬁrst Web server hosted tourism information.
May 1994 - .cn is relocated from Germany to China.
May 1994 - National Computing and Networking Facility of China (NCFC), a
collaborative network of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Beijing and
Tsinghua Universities, opens a 64k-bps direct Internet link to the U.S. via Sprint.
1998 Popularization of the Internet
8. Traditional media hope to increase their inﬂuence and proﬁt through blogs.
Blogs satisfy the information needs of Chinese readers who are new media consumers.
tatistics predict that between 2012 and 2015, China’s blogs could have 1 billion unique visitors.
Motivations for Blogging in China
Citizens enjoy presenting angles on stories that
divert from the position that is prevalent in the state
media (TV, newspapers).
9. Breakneck Growth
10. Gateways to social media in China
The blogware provider Sina positioned itself ahead of other services because of celebrity blogs
which attract millions of fans who are introduced to blogging this way
Stars from HongKong on Twitter
Stars from HongKong on Twitter
13. Breaknecknotable increase in
There has been a small but
the freedom of speech in China due to the Internet.
253 million Internet users in China (2007)
By 2013: 1 billion mobile and 0.5 billion internet subscriptions
Only 5% of Internet users who know who to use tools like Tor
A Chinese Al-Jazeera?
17. It’s hard for ﬁltering agencies to keep up with the
explosion of user-created content.
18. The Internet as an environment of social and political control.
All video sites were majority state-owned as of February 2008.
20. “Anti-vulgar Internet Crackdown”
From the beginning of 2009, China has already announced 6 blacklists of
websites criticized for “low and vulgar practices on the Internet” as part of
the latest “Anti-vulgar Internet Crackdown”
The Chinese government is extending its anti-porn campaign to mobile
21. Google complicit in censorship
search for Tiananmen Square in
Google China vs. Google USA
22. Updates on torture cases, press releases http://faluninfo.net/
23. Welcome from Google. We translate popular stories, pictures, & videos from China's
internet into English. If you like our blog, please consider subscribing to our RSS feed.
24. Black Internet Cafes
The central directives from Beijing regulating Internet cafes that have come in the wake of the Internet cafe
ﬁre of 2002 are, like many other central government laws in China, inconsistently implemented at the local
level. In December 1998, the ﬁrst regulations on Internet cafes were issued. They were quite strict, demanding
Internet cafes must register with local PSB. In April 2001, a second, more comprehensive set of regulations
were issued that had more rules on health and safety. The third set of regulations in 2003 were promulgated
by the Ministry of Culture, not the Ministry of Information Industries. Before the cafe ﬁre, the legal norms
viewed Internet cafes as being potentially dangerous, morally and physically, while social norms felt otherwise
and black Internet cafes proliferated.
26. Accountability Politics
27. Investigative blogger Zhou “Zuola” Shuguang
A ﬁst-chop in the throat and surveillance by secret police seems to have put a swift end to the career of
China's most popular investigative blogger Zhou “Zuola” Shuguang, but judging from his post earlier this
month ‘Zhou Shuguang's understanding of citizen reporters and citizen media', if you were to ask him: “is
citizen journalism dead?”, you'd stand a very good chance of being told that bloggers like him can and
must “do journalism”, and why. Throw in the way he coldly describes personal accounts as sample
specimens below, in addition to making a few criticisms and judgments, and you might just leave seeing
citizen media as both an art and a science:
As I see it, I'm the most suited to be speaking about citizen journalism and citizen
media, as I have, with my simple motives, put into practice what I understand personal
media to be. I record things that I think are original and interesting, or things that I
think are wrong or need improving upon. As for why I don't focus more on “the ﬁner
things,” I always answer as such: “the value of information (advertisements, news or
tip-offs) is in its constantly-shifting and novel nature. For example, you know that Zhou
Shuguang is a man, or that dogs will bite people; if the information you're giving me
are things I already know, is your information of any value to me?” This is why I don't
talk nonsense, and only talk things of (eye-catching) value, things I'm willing to take
29. Investigative blogger Zhou “Zuola” Shuguang
Documentary in-progress, Working Title: “Citizen Zola” by Stephen T. Maing - Director, editor, cinematographer
30. The Power Equation between State and Society in China
Today, there are quite a few ofﬁcials who are feeling
more pressured because there are countless eyeballs
keeping close watch over them.
Now they may not dare to exceed their authority.
31. Internet-mediated Networks
•email, BBS forums, websites
•“to have power is to be in the network”
34. Group Think as Obstacle?
“The Chinese think collectively. They have no concept
of personal space. They are not into individual-type
Mark Cavicchia in Fast to China (Andrew Ross) p101
35. Accountability Politics
Vigilant Internet users spotted news photos of a housing ofﬁcial and posted heated online discussions about
his $15,000 Swiss watch and $22-a-pack cigarettes. Ofﬁcial legal channels are often inadequate but
Internet vigilantism led to the dismissal of Juigeng.
Communist ofﬁcial Zhou Juigeng is
under investigation for an apparent
quot;lavish lifestylequot; that exceeds his
36. The Human Flesh Search Engine
patches shortcomings of Chinese legal system but also leads to violent vigilantism
“Now known as the quot;Kitten Killer of Hangzhou,quot; Wang Jue uploaded a video of herself crushing a kitten to death under her high
heels. People identiﬁed her location by studying the backdrop to the video and traced the offending pair of stilettos to a purchase
made on eBay (nasdaq: EBAY - news - people ). The stilettoed murderess eventually issued a public apology, blaming her actions on
her devastation following her failed marriage. Both she and the cameraman who recorded the kitten killing lost their jobs.”
“Collaboration between the online masses to meet a common goal is known as quot;crowd sourcingquot; in the U.S. But in China it
is the sheer scale of the operation--recruits can be enlisted from an online population of more than 250 million--and the
people's quot;unusually high enthusiasmquot; that makes the human-ﬂesh-search-engine phenomenon unique, says Xujun Eberlein,
an American Chinese author and commentator.”
“For Wang Fei, the journey from high-ﬂying advertising executive to jobless national hate ﬁgure began with an extramarital affair. His disgrace was
absolute and immediate. Rarely is there any other outcome after one becomes a target of the quot;human ﬂesh search engine.quot;
“....high-proﬁle lawsuit ﬁled by Wang Fei, the advertising executive who fell victim to a human ﬂesh search engine after his wife's
Internet-powered manhunts that have achieved notoriety across China
“Sheltered behind screen names, people post hateful rants on blogs, upload outrageous videos to YouTube and slander authors on
Amazon. For better or worse, the human ﬂesh search engine strips away the layers of digital anonymity.”
“Add to these motivations the fact that despite the authorities' strict control over online political content there is a lack
of privacy laws in China to prevent people's private details being published on the Web, and the growth potential of the
human ﬂesh search engine is apparent.”
37. “What a new Internet might look
like is still widely debated, but
one alternative would, in effect,
create a ‘gated community’
where users would give up their
anonymity and certain freedoms
in return for safety.”
John Markoff’s call for the Internet as gated community
38. Information Politics
-technical (it’s hard argue with a video)
- events are ﬁrst reported online and then in the print media
39. Releasing factual information on the Internet as a
Citizen reporting of the deadly ﬂoods that have devastated many areas in China during this summer's rainy season.
“67,000 more people evacuated in Anhui, another 37 dead in and near Chongqing, and that's just this past week.”
40. China feels the quake online
Ever since the massive earthquake in China's Sichuan province, people in
the affected region have been updating various websites with news from the
ground. Eyewitness accounts and pictures have also emerged on Sichuan
forums and bulletin boards.
SICHUAN CONNECTS ONLINE
Sites previously used for light-hearted social networking such as this food,
drink and friendship site for Sichuan now carry banners lamenting quot;Tragedy
in Sichuanquot;. The Chengdu Commercial Daily among other sites posts
casualty lists from hospitals.
MICROBLOGGING THE QUAKE
Immediately after the earthquake people across China began to broadcast
the tremor on various microblogging services.
On Twitter and the Chinese language services Fanfou, Taotao and Jiwai.de
users across the country registered the earthquake.
quot;We just had a massive earthquake. Updates from the earthquake region
are still appearing on Twitter's earthquake watch feed.
Student blogger and Twitter-updater Est Dan Tu has also been posting his
Chinese language updates on the situation in Chengdu.
Appeals have appeared across various forums for people to donate blood
for the victims of the earthquake.
Microblogger yysr1943 typiﬁes the emotions online with his Chinese
language update: quot;50,000 people now killed. How many poor people?
41. Sun Zhigang was detained by police in
a migrant detention center; he was
severely beaten and died a few days
later in police custody.
Hundreds of thousands of protest
messages appeared on popular sites
such as sina.com and sohu.com,
decrying Sun’s death and sharing their
own experiences of police abuse.
One group set up a memorial page
to Sun Zhigang on www.cn.netor.com.
(Chinese ofﬁcials have suppressed Dai
culture and language since t he
Citizen journalism takes off at QQ
43. “Shenyang, literally meaning “the city to the north of Shen River” and capital of the Liaoning province, is
touting itself as China’s “next tourist destination.” But whether you are visiting the ancient pagodas of Old City or the
ofﬁcial “High-tech Industrial Development Zone”
the tourist brochures won’t mention the city’s
male and female sex workers who mostly come
from poor rural communities in search of talked-
up urban opportunities. In partnership with the Ai Zhi Yuan Zhu Center for Health and
Education documentary ﬁlmmaker Wei Zhang will train male and female sex workers who use the AZYZ center how
to maintain a blog and upload short video documentaries to share their experiences, opinions, and troubles in
order to promote more understanding of the regionʼs sex worker population.”
45. Symbolic Politics
adding photos to print stories
messages that are narrated in the story contradict what you see in the image
46. We tend to think that these movements are squelched via censorship and police
pressure. But the situation is far more complicated. Chinese premier Wen Jiabao
recently conducted a two hour live chat online with Chinese netizens, answering
questions that were both political and personal. “Grandpa Wen” built a great
deal of internet goodwill by starting his remarks by declaring, “My mother told
me always to be honest, so I will try to be honest and upfront with you guys,”
River Crabs (the censors)
and answering questions about his skills at cooking dumplings.
“no one has managed to organize an
opposition party on the web” Rebecca McKinnon
posts about the riots became posts about “pushups”
Alpaca sheep (the clever bloggers, playing with language)
The image, which was quite common in the Chinese blogosphere, is a commentary on
censorship, politics, language and, ultimately, on absurdity.
47. site allows citizens to access government information
“Chinese premier Wen Jiabao recently conducted a two
hour live chat online with Chinese netizens”
“Learn to Listen to Public Opinion from the Internet”
a loss of control by the government over culture ?
Chinese Backstreet Boys
50. Referring to Chinese Internet censorship in the 1990s, Bill Clinton remarked that
“trying to control the Internet is like trying
to nail Jell-o to the wall.”
51. Soft Power
“We must step up the development of the press, publishing, radio, film, television, literature
and art, cleaving to correct guidance and fostering healthy social trends,” read section seven,
of harmony.” “We will strengthen
part two, dealing with building a “culture
efforts to develop and manage Internet culture and foster a good cyber environment.”
52. Information Politics
- not just about getting factual and technical information
out to the public
- information rights
53. Chinese TV Coverage of the War in Iraq
Li Xiguang’s speech on World Press Freedom Day in 2004
“The Chinese were watching CNN and Rupert Murdoch’s channels. Since the ﬁrst day of the
war, the Chinese government handed over the country’s ﬁve most popular TV channels to CNN
and Murdoch. All the images, messages and sentiments the Chinese audience got from TV were
ﬁltered out through the gate-keepers of CNN and Murdoch’s people.”
“Murdoch hired simultaneous translators who live parroted CNN and Fox 24-hour
broadcasts for almost two weeks.”
“China probably was the world’s only country where anti-war voice was not heard in the
“Terms such as “invasion”, “occupation,” “resistance” are illegal words in reporting Iraq war and
post Iraq War”
“Before the war, the Chinese media ... sent over 100 journalists to Iraq border preparing to cover the war.
But the Chinese authorities ﬁnally banned all of them from entering Iraq to report the war.” In 1999 NATO
“Chinese editors disclosed that the real reason the government decided to ban the journalists from entering Chinese embassy
Iraq was that the government did not want to see another “accidental” bombing and killing by the American in Belgrade
“In the age of globalization, the Chinese TV audience are increasingly becoming passive subjects of
manipulation and control by the country’s 13 state TV channels and 9 Murdoch-owned channels.”
“By relaying CNN and Fox, many [Chinese] TVs are becoming the tongue and throat of the American government.”
54. Chinese TV Coverage of the War in Iraq
Li Xiguang’s speech on World Press Freedom Day in 2004
“Since most media in developing countries did not send journalists to Iraq to experience and
witness all news events, CNN and Fox’s live coverage naturally become what most of the
international community believe as the most reliable channels for providing information to the
“Many Chinese journalists refuse to believe that in a free society like the US, the media are
also relying heavily on government sources in covering a war.”
“The ﬁrst step of getting closer to truth is to be freed from the bird cage of the government
propaganda and global media.“
55. Net-enabled Leverage/Accountability Politics
exposure to international media through the Internet
international media pick up information ﬁrst
Internet as lever: stories on Global Voices
China blocks YouTube in wake of Tibet protests
57. “We don’t know the reason for the block,” a YouTube
spokesman, Scott Rubin, said. China routinely ﬁlters Internet
content and blocks material that is critical of its policies. It
also frequently blocks individual videos from YouTube. “The
instant speculation is that YouTube is being blocked
because the Tibetan government in exile released a
March 24, 2009
58. YouTube not
With conflicting reports about
YouTube access in China tonight,
here’s the breakdown from reports to
Herdict, a censorship reporting tool:
156 reports from China in the past 26
(March 5 11:30 PM Beijing Time)
125 report YouTube inaccessible
31 report YouTube accessible
China blocks YouTube in Wake of Tibet Protests
59. What about access by marginalized groups?
How legitimate is it to speak for the other?