Posts Tagged ‘china’

Qin, Strömberg and Wu on Why China Allows Freer Social Media

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Bei Qin, David Strömberg and Yanhui Wu, of the University of Hong Kong, Stockholm University Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES) and University of Southern California Marshall School of Business have posted to SSRN Why Does China Allow Freer Social Media? Protests versus Surveillance and Propaganda.

This paper look absolutely fascinating, as you’ll see from the abstract:

This paper documents basic facts regarding public debates about controversial political issues on Chinese social media. Our documentation is based on a dataset of 13.2 billion blog posts published on Sina Weibo — the most prominent Chinese microblogging platform — during the 2009–2013 period. Our primary finding is that a shockingly large number of posts on highly sensitive topics were published and circulated on social media. For instance, we find millions of posts discussing protests and an even larger number of posts with explicit corruption allegations. This content may spur and organize protests. However, it also makes social media effective tools for surveillance. We find that most protests can be predicted one day before their occurrence and that corruption charges of specific individuals can be predicted one year in advance. Finally, we estimate that our data contain 600,000 government-affiliated accounts which contribute 4% of all posts about political and economic issues on Sina Weibo. The share of government accounts is larger in areas with a higher level of internet censorship and where newspapers have a stronger pro-government bias. Overall, our findings suggest that the Chinese government regulates social media to balance threats to regime stability against the benefits of utilizing bottom-up information.

The paper is forthcoming in the The Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Blog Law Blog Has Never Cooperated with NSA’s Special Source Operations

Thursday, June 6th, 2013


Well, it’s been a busy day for cybernews.

The Washington Post has broken a huge story that the U.S. government, specifically the NSA and the FBI, are accessing e-mails, photos, videos, and other personal data via its “Special Source Operations” – NSA talk for buddy-bud tech companies. The cooperators in this outed “PRISM” program are, according to the Post story, “nine leading U.S. Internet companies”: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple.

(Hey, good for AOL getting lumped into the category of “leading U.S. Internet companies.” No doubt they were super-psyched to see that.)

Well, for my part, I can state unequivocally that Blog Law Blog has never cooperated with the NSA or FBI in sharing any data. (But I do use Google Analytics, as do bazillions of others – so be warned.)

In the same news cycle comes the revelation that Chinese government hacking into private American computer systems is far wider and deeper than previously known. They even hacked the 2008 Obama and McCain presidential campaigns.

Unfortunately, I can make no guarantees that Blog Law Blog has not been hacked by the Chinese government. The only real protection I have against being hacked by China is staying below their radar. Which I’m guessing I probably have. (Although I’ve certainly discussed how China is a leading jailer of bloggers, among other things.)

Hey, by the way, did you notice who is missing from that Special Source Operations list? Yup, no Twitter. Good for Twitter. They’ve certainly shown their user-privacy backbone before. And no Amazon or eBay either.

Weibo.com Debuts “Truth” Point System

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Weibo.com logoSina Weibo – China’s Twitter-like microblogging site – has created a new point system to extend Chinese government influence over what is and is not deemed “true.” New guidelines forbid communicating content considered “untrue,” or which is deemed to “harm national unity,” or “destroy societal stability.”

This sort of speech has long been illegal in China. But with Sina Weibo’s burgeoning 300 million users, website policy may have more reach than the criminal law.

When creating an account on the site, which is also known as Weibo.com, a user gets 80 points of credibility, or 100 points if the user plugs in a government-assigned ID number to create the account and links to a cellphone. Then, whenever the Sina Weibo user communicates something deemed “untrue,” points are deducted. The more people to whom the “falsehood” is communicated, the more points are deducted. For instance, spreading a “falsehood” to more than a thousand other users results in a deduction of 10 points and a 15-day account suspension. Users can gain points by staying in compliance with government censorship policies. Once the points fall below 60, the user is deemed “low credit.” Once the points get to zero, the account is closed.

Sina Weibo has been a key means of the dissemination of information about disasters and government scandals that the Chinese government has tried to play down, deny, or bury. This new point system will presumably cause Weibo users to self-censor to avoid account closure, helping to allow the Chinese government to bring social media to heel.

More:

Imprisoned Bloggers Around the World

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

According to Reporters Without Borders there are currently 121 netizens imprisoned, along with 157 journalists and 9 media assistants behind bars.

They include:

  • Blogger Henghameh Shahidi of Iran, in prison since February 25, 2009
  • Blogger Sakhi Righi of Iran, in prison since June 18, 2009
  • Blogger Wu Baoquan of China, in prison since a date unknown

The leading countries in jailing the persons RWB classifies as netizens are China (70), Iran (17), and Vietnam (17).

Sino Clean Energy Joins DEER in Suing Short Blogger Alfred Little

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Sino Clean Energy facility in China (Photo: SCEI)

A while back I recounted the story of how DEER, the maker of small kitchen appliances, was suing the blogger going by the name of “Alfred Little” of the stock-tip blog Seeking Alpha.

Now James Sterngold and Dune Lawrence of Bloomberg report that DEER has been joined by fellow U.S.-listed Chinese company Sino Clean Energy Inc. (SCEI) in suing Little.

The Bloomberg story says, “The cases are the most significant efforts by Chinese companies that trade on U.S. exchanges to fight back against bloggers and short sellers who have questioned their accounting practices.”

Shenzen-based DEER’s shares have plummeted 41 percent since Little’s negative report on Seeking Alpha. (Which, by the way, disclosed that Little was short DEER. To which any investor reading the post must have said, “Duh.”) Xi’an-based Sino Clean Energy’s shares are off 49 percent since Little wrote a post headlined “Sino Clean Energy Is a Complete Hoax and Its Shares Are Worthless.”

Okay, now, here’s what Sino Clean Energy does, according to its own website:

Sino Clean Energy is commercial producer and distributor of coal-water slurry fuel (“CWSF”) commonly referred to as Coal Water Mixture (“CWM”) which is clean fuel that consists of fine coal particles suspended in water.

Clean fuel? I’m sorry, is it just me, or does a slurry made of water with fine coal particles suspended in it sound like the dirtiest thing ever? I mean, that stuff is going to stain. You’ll need Lava soap, a pumice stone, and at least 20 minutes of hand washing after you put your hands in that, I’m thinking. Before you write me and tell me they mean “clean burning,” I get that. But I still find it hilarious to call “coal-water slurry” clean fuel.

Anyways, Bloomberg has a source that says Alfred Little is a “cover for a group of investors and research analysts, most of whom are Chinese, who are making money exposing fraud in Chinese U.S.-listed companies.”

If this is really market manipulation, shouldn’t buying shares of these companies at depressed prices be a terrific bargain? And if that’s true, shouldn’t the market solve this problem without involving the courts?

Neither DEER nor Sino Clean Energy responded to Bloomberg’s requests for comment. If I were an upstanding U.S.-listed Chinese company screwed over by market-manipulating short-selling bloggers, I would have been all over that attempt to defend myself.

That seeming reluctance to talk, combined with a shady way these companies had of getting listed on American exchanges, called a “reverse merger,” plus the fact that DEER and Sino Clean are being sued in shareholder class-actions, makes me suspect that free speech is doing exactly what it’s meant to do here.

Freedom House Report on Censorship-Circumvention Tools

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Report coverFreedom House has released a report called Leaping Over the Firewall: A Review of Censorship Circumvention Tools. China, Iran, Burma, and Azerbaijan are particular focuses.

The EFF Deeplinks blog gave the report a somewhat lukewarm review.

Of course, we can all agree that anything that helps people living under oppressive regimes to obtain a measure of free exchange of ideas is a good thing.

Chinese Soldiers’ Blogging Banned

Thursday, July 15th, 2010
Chinese soldiers training by carrying logs

China's army has prohibited its soldiers from having blogs.
Logs, apparently, are still allowed.

The Associated Press reports that new orders handed down by the People’s Liberation Army ban blogging by soldiers.

(Ha’p: Media Law Prof Blog)

Xinhua Analyzes America’s Free Speech Problem with Anonymity Online

Monday, June 28th, 2010

The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, has distributed an article that analyzes America’s problems with anonymous commenting on blogs and online forums. It’s a fascinating outsider perspective on the USA:

Americans believe that free speech is a right endowed by their Constitution.

The article draws parallels between the policies of individual websites on anonymous posting and a government-mandated system of tracking internet posters by their identity card numbers:

In response to the serious consequences of anonymous posts, The Washington Post, The New York Times and other American publications will require that users provide personal information before posting any comments. … In 2002, when the South Korean government proposed the idea of Internet registration, it triggered a vehement debate on “violating privacy” and “limiting free speech,” similar to the situation the Americans face now. The implementation of this policy faced significant obstacles, but after several years of practicing and perfecting, the South Koreans now accept it. … South Korea is a successful example for America and other nations debating this policy.

(Ha’p: print version of The Week.)

China Leads World in Jailing of Bloggers

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Flag of the People's Republic of ChinaAccording to continuously updated figures from Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders), China leads the world in the jailing of bloggers, with 11 behind bars.

Iran is runner-up with five in jail. Vietnam and Azerbaijan are tied for third place with two each.

RWB’s press freedom barometer tracks the numbers here.