A momentary break from the usual posts: first, a thank you to Tumblr for featuring the blog in its Tumblr Radar. Glad to reach out to new folks and hope you all continue to find this interesting. Second, I’ll be presenting a draft paper I wrote with Pierre Landry at the Chinese Internet Research Conference held this year at the Oxford Internet Institute. I’m flying out tomorrow and look forward to meeting all the attendees. Below is the abstract of the paper and a link to the pdf. After the jump, find out which 19 CCP politicians are still explicitly blocked on Weibo (they’re probably not the ones you expect).
This paper seeks to use the dynamics of Internet censorship by China’s most important social media site, Sina Weibo, to achieve a better understanding of the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in November 2012. To this end, searches were performed daily on the names of all 2,270 delegates to the Party Congress on Sina Weibo for five weeks before and after the event. Data recorded included information on the number of results reported and whether the keywords were reported to be blocked or not. As a complement to work by researchers including Gary King, David Bamman, King-wa Fu, and Tao Zhu into Chinese social media censorship, our study concludes that Sina Weibo actively manipulated and filtered the search results of Communist Party delegates—particularly higher-ranked and incumbent officials—during the observation period, with an apparent decrease in search blocks after the Party Congress. This study offers evidence that the Party, through proxies like Sina Weibo, proactively attempts to shape public opinion online, just as they do in traditional media. The decrease in search blocks perhaps indicates that the Party is still seeking to find a balance between utilizing the Internet as a check on officials and suppressing social media to prevent dissent; or perhaps it is a short-term effect due to a new wave of leaders taking office.