events

How Censorship in China Allows Government Criticism but Silences Collective Expression

Gary King- Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Department of Government, Harvard University

RSVP Required by 5PM June 5

We offer the first large scale, multiple source analysis of the outcome of what may be the most extensive effort to selectively censor human expression ever implemented.  To do this, we have devised a system to locate, download, and analyze the content of millions of social media posts originating from nearly 1,400 different social media services all over China before the Chinese government is able to find, evaluate, and censor (i.e., remove from the Internet) the large subset they deem objectionable.  Using modern computer-assisted text analytic methods that we adapt and validate in the Chinese language, we compare the substantive content of posts censored to those not censored over time in each of 95 issue areas.  Contrary to previous understandings, posts with negative, even vitriolic, criticism of the state, its leaders, and its policies are not more likely to be censored.  Instead, we show that the censorship program is aimed at curtailing collection action by silencing comments that represent, reinforce, or spur social mobilization, regardless of content.  Censorship is oriented toward attempting to forestall collective activities that are occurring now or may occur in the future --- and, as such, seem to clearly expose government intent, such as examples we offer where sharp increases in censorship presage government action outside the Internet.  This is joint work with Jennifer Pan and Molly Roberts.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012 | 4:15 pm — 5:30 pm
Philippines Conference Room, Encina Hall, 3rd Floor

Shorenstein APARC