A Comparative View of Censored and Uncensored Political Discussion: The Case of Chinese Social Media Users

A Comparative View of Censored and Uncensored Political Discussion: The Case of Chinese Social Media Users

Qihao Ji (Florida State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7113-1.ch070
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Through a content analysis on Chinese online dissidents' social media discourses, this study examines the impact of Internet censorship on Chinese dissidents' political discourse in two social media platforms: Weibo and Twitter. Data was collected during a time period when China's Internet censorship was tightened. Results revealed that Chinese online dissidents are more likely to post critical opinions and direct criticism towards the Chinese government on Twitter. In addition, dissidents on Twitter are more likely to engage in discussing with others, while Weibo dissidents tend to adopt linguistic skills more often to bypass censorship. No difference was found in terms of dissidents' civility and rationality across the two platforms. Implications and future research are discussed in detail.
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Internet Censorship In China

In order to establish the milieu in which Weibo arose, it is important to understand the Internet environment in China. Since the introduction of the Internet in 1987, China has generated the largest number of “netizens” (Internet citizen, Zhou & Moy, 2007) in the world. While serving for both economic and educational purposes by the Chinese government, the Internet is also widely used by the general public in mainland China. One of the unique characteristics of Chinese netizens, as Huang (2012) suggested, is that they tend to be more active online than offline. In a comparative survey study, Watt (2008) found that Chinese Internet users feel three times as free in the online world and are twice as likely to report an addiction to the Internet as American users. Another survey (CNNIC, 2008) indicated that 81.5% of Chinese netizens read online news and consider the Internet their primary news source. The number was 75% in the U.S (Pew, 2010).

Therefore, the online world is considered an important community that has been built by Chinese netizens where people can interact with each other more freely than in the off-line world, especially in terms of sharing information and opinions (Huang, 2012).

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