Blog Essay Class 10

Prior to this week’s readings, I was largely unfamiliar with the media censorship practices within China.  I have heard mention of the Great Firewall of China and keyword blocking, but was unaware of specifics regarding any of this.  The piece by King, Pan and Roberts (2013) provided theories regarding China’s goal in censoring as well as examples of ways media is censored.   

While the stated purpose by the Chinese government is to limit horizontal transmission, the theories the authors proposed were state critique and collective action potential.  State critique posits Chinese leadership suppresses negative information regarding the state, policies or leaders.  Collective action potential states the goal is to prohibit people from joining together to express themselves. 

Based on their findings, it appears that the goal is more so to decrease collective action.  And for control purposes, this makes sense.  There are a lot of people in China and if they were to unite, this could certainly lead to uproar and chaos.  Additionally, with the Black PR, it’s almost not necessary to censor negative information about the state.  Custer (2013) writes about the underground industry that is dedicated to deleting posts and articles for pay.  Despite being illegal to receive funds for such, this has turned into a highly profitable industry. 

Of course, part of the reason this is necessary is because of how fractured the media system is in China.  The graph provided by King, Pan and Roberts (p. 4) illustrates the numerous different individual sites.  Compared to the US which has the majority of social media interaction concentrated to a handful of sites, China’s system seems to be much more complex in terms of censorship.  With this in mind, it’s no wonder it is up to the individual sites to self-censor. 

What this boils down to is the control of information.  As Roberts writes, in China the government owns the information.  And based on Zhao’s article, citizens are aware of this.  The censorship of collective action allows the government to retain control over ideology, at least to an extent.  While China may be a bit more extreme in their tactics (or at least more overt), I think the US does this to an extent as well.  We’ve discussed previously the government funding movies that portray the military in a positive light.  And, of course, with the recent news of the National Security Agency’s increased surveillance, I have to wonder how much monitoring or even censorship occurs here in the US.  And as for the surveillance, I personally have nothing to hide and on an individual level am not overly concerned.  However, with the increased findings of racial/political profiling here in the US, I wonder if these practices will lead to problems. 


DQ: With the fractured nature of China’s media as well as ways around the censorship bans, do you foresee the netizens gaining more control or the government circumventing this?


Jessie King


3 thoughts on “Blog Essay Class 10

  1. Reading about how the Chinese Government has begun allowing critiques of the state by individuals and media outlets as a way to legitimize themselves while secretly blocking attempts of citizens to form collectives capable of enacting offline protests makes me paranoid about my own government. I think this probably has a lot to do with the NSA scandal being in the news right now, but I still see a relatively low level or collectivization here in the U.S. compared with other nations. I wonder whether this is because of the state of comfort that we live in or if our media is being used against us to a certain degree.

    It’s true what you write about it not being necessary for the Gov. to censor negative information. If individual politicians need something erased from the internet, then they can employ any number of organizations to scrub the Web for them. I wonder if the media fragmentation that was pointed out by King, Pan, and Roberts’ graph is by design. If the government allows these multiple sites to operate it might make it harder for like-minded citizens to find each other online, which would make it practically impossible for anyone to mobilize any collective offline actions.

    I’m glad that you too wonder about covert censorship here in America. You seem a lot more level-headed than me, so perhaps my cynicism and paranoia, while over the top at times, are somewhat justified if you see reason for concern as well.

    I mentioned in my essay that I see a back and forth battle between netizens and governments in the future. Similar to the MPAA trying to block pirating, the powerful will find ways to block negative behavior and then the dissidents will find ways around these blocks. It has the potential to be a practically never ending struggle, but in the end the more online control that a government tries to exert, the more they push people toward offline action.

  2. The only way netizens could gain more control is to start to infiltrate the government and gain access to the censorship at the top level. This would have to be well organized underground plot that has no visibility online. The video that showed the game of cat and mouse in class makes me think that the netizens will continue to replicate and outnumber the censors exponentially and that the system will have to break down. We already see efforts to use code language but any words that mean to “meet: or actually physically band together are censored. If the society wants to make the change I think they will out play their government and this his been proven in moves against Mubarek and other extreme governments.

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