More signals on social media control

We noted at CMP yesterday that the rhetoric of online information control has been gearing up in China in recent days, focusing on social media and particularly on microblogging platforms like Sina Weibo. Like the recent action by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television to ban the insertion of advertisements in television dramas in China, the intensified campaign against “unhealthy” information online — microblog rumors are characterized as a “drugs,” for example — takes its cues from the October “Decision” on so-called cultural reforms.

One of the most important in a recent spate of signals in China’s state media is an article in the People’s Daily by Wang Chen (王晨), the director of the State Internet Information Office, the internet control agency created under the State Council Information Office on May 4, 2011.

In the piece, which reflects the Party’s official position on social media, Wang makes the importance of the recent high-level Party meeting on culture clear from the outset. The Party must, he says, “conscientiously implement a number of deployment demands in the ‘Decision’ of the Sixth Plenum of the Party’s 17th Central Committee concerning the ‘development of a healthy and upright online culture,’ the ‘strengthening of public opinion channeling on the internet, singing the ideological and cultural main theme online” and ‘strengthening the channeling and control of social media and real-time communication tools (即时通信工具).'”

Since President Hu Jintao’s address at People’s Daily in June 2008, the concept of “public opinion channeling,” or yulun yindao (舆论引导), has been a central part of the Party’s press control strategy. It implies a more modern, slightly more savvy approach to traditional “public opinion guidance,” the notion (born in June 1989) that the Party must enforce its political line in the media in order to maintain social and political stability and Party rule.

“Public opinion channeling,” which CMP Director Qian Gang has called “Control 2.0,” focuses not just on restricting information but ensuring that the Party’s own authoritative version of the facts predominates. In other words, information can no longer be simply controlled through traditional censorship tactics — it has to be actively spun as well.

The following is a more or less full translation of Wang Chen’s remarks in the People’s Daily.

Actively Carrying Out Public Opinion Channeling Work
Wang Chen (王晨), Director of the State Internet Information Office
People’s Daily
November 28, 2011

Microblogs, as a new application of the internet, are vested with the qualities of rapid transmission, broad coverage and strong influence, and they are an important platform for the transmission of information. We must, in order to strategically raise the governing capacity of our Party and government, conscientiously implement a number of deployment demands in the “Decision” of the sixth plenum of the Party’s 17th Central Committee concerning the “development of a healthy and upright online culture,” the “strengthening of public opinion channeling on the internet, singing the ideological and cultural main theme online” and “strengthening the channeling and control of social media and real-time communication tools (即时通信工具)”. As suits the new circumstances, [we must] use new platforms, actively carrying out public opinion channeling work through microblogs, working hard to use microblogs to serve the masses and serve society.

[We must] transmit advanced culture (先进文化) and promote and develop healthy social trends through the Weibo. Now many regions have prioritized the strengthening of microblog content building, using microblogs to transmit scientific theories, advocate advanced culture, promote social uprightness and espouse good [social] habits, encouraging a flourishing internet culture and the development of internet civilization (网络文明). [Here, Wang talks about the “great results” this year in using microblogs to bolster propaganda objectives like the celebration of the Party’s 90th anniversary]. [We] hope that various regions and various units will actively put microblogging [technology] to use, maintaining closeness to the truth, closeness to life and closeness to the masses, releasing more healthy and beneficial new content, revealing more fully a positive new [climate of] prevailing practices (积极向上的新风尚) [on social media], reflecting more fully the new gesture of protecting the people’s fundamental interests, further raising the capacity for public opinion channeling and response [to sudden-breaking incidents and news stories], better serving economic reform and opening and modernization.

[We must] provide more rich and various information services through microblogs. Right now, around 50 microblogging sites within our borders have a total of more than 200 million new posts each day, providing a diverse sea of information, adding convenience to the masses of internet users in their study, work and life. [We] must actively encourage relevant parties to provide even more useful information in areas such as commerce, lifestyle, education and entertainment, satisfying internet users’ multi-faceted, diverse and multi-layered spiritual culture demand (精神文化需求) [NOTE: This awkward terms simply refers to demand for information and content, but we leave the more direct term to give a flavor of the official discourse here]. [We] must more fully utilize microblogs to promote economic development and serve the active needs of the social masses, ensuring that microblogs become a channel for transmitting advanced socialist culture (社会主义先进文化), a new platform for public culture services (公共文化服务), and a new space for the healthy cultural lives of the people.

[We must] encourage greater interaction and discussion among internet users through microblogs. Information generated in discussion and exchange among web users constitutes the bulk of microblog content, and the primary demand of web users in utilizing microblogs is that they can be used for the exchange of ideas and emotions and for conversation in life and work. In particular, the use of microblogs by internet users to share their joys and grievances, effectively work out their emotions and balance their mindsets has promoted microblogs in becoming an important social platform through which the public can exchange and converse. [We] hope the celebrity microbloggers (知名博主) can continue to develop their sensitivity to the national circumstances and to the social situation, raising their sense of social responsibility, thoroughly taking on a positive role in channeling online public opinion.

[We must] build internet civilization through microblogs. In recent years, the campaign of “running a civilized Web, and going online in a civilized manner” (文明办网、文明上网) has steadily moved forward, and has effectively purified the online environment, raising the level of internet civilization (提升了网络文明水平). Building internet civilization is an important part of the [project of] building socialist spiritual civilization (社会主义精神文明建设). Many writers, scholars, artists and advanced workers from various quarters have actively taken up use of microblogs to expound scientific theories [i.e., what is rational in the Party’s view], propagate the socialist core value system (社会主义核心价值体系), to share knowledge drawn from their work, to introduce their cultural products, etcetera, resulting in the emergence of internet cultural products that are vested with a Chinese style, show the spirit of the age and are of good taste. [We] hope that websites and our web user friends further establish an internet civilization consciousness (网络文明意识), acting on the “view of honor and shame” (荣辱观) by which “abiding by law and discipline brings honor, and acting against the law and discipline bring shame.” [NOTE: This is a reference to Hu Jintao’s “Eight Honors and Eight Shames,” which were introduced during the internet cleansing campaign in 2007. It was during that year that the idea of a “civilized Web” was drummed home by the leadership. Web portals were pressed to clean up their act along the lines indicated by the Party, and they signed up to public pledges for a “cleaner” internet.] [This is about] advocating civilized expression (倡文明表达), creating a civilized atmosphere (创文明环境), posting civilized blog [and microblog] posts (发文明博文), and being civilized blog [and microblog] account holders (做文明博主) — promoting microblogs in becoming a new platform for the transmission of positive information (积极向上信息) and rational and civilized expression of opinion, in becoming a cultural and public opinion front in actualizing the Socialist View of Honor and Shame (社会主义荣辱观) and promoting the socialist core value system.

[We must] use microblogs as a means for Party organizations and governments to better interact with the masses and serve the masses. For some time now, Party and government organizations at various levels, people’s congresses and political consultative conferences, judicial organs and other state organs as well as people’s groups and public officers, all have used microblogs to better understand the social mood and public opinion, to listen to the voices of the masses, to care about the hardships of the masses — and they have used microblogs as an important channel for connecting with and serving the masses. Up to this point, Party and government organs and public officers have opened up a total of 40,000 microblog accounts. These include the Information Office of the Nanjing City Government in Jiangsu province, the political affairs microblog of Aksu Prefecture in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, the microblog group of Mudan District in Heze City in Shandong, and a whole group of other official Party and government microblogs that issue government affairs-related information in a timely manner, showing active concern, realizing good-natured interaction with the masses, promoting work of substance. [Here Wang talks further about the hope that Party and governments organs and leaders will continue to use social media actively as a means to better interact with the public and understand their concerns].

As we actively encourage various aspects [on the government side, intellectuals, member of the public etc.] to actively use microblogs to serve society, we must recognize that there are a number of problems involved in the use of microblogs that must be settled urgently. A small number of people use microblogs to fabricate and disseminate rumors, or to transmit obscene or vulgar information, intentionally violating the rights of others and carrying out illegal online public relations [activities]. These must be investigated and handled according to laws and regulations. When they are online, internet users must obey the law and discipline themselves, not transmitting rumors and not believing rumors. Various microblogging sites must strengthen their management of information posting, not providing a transmission channel to illegal or harmful information.. [We] invite the online masses to actively notify [authorities] of obscene or other harmful information, so that together we can create a creditable, healthy and civilized internet environment.

Strengthening the use and management of microblogs and other new media, promoting the building of internet culture, is a pressing demand in the strengthening of the building of the governing capacity of the Party and the government in the new era. In fact, the question of how to develop and manage microblogs is one many nations in the world together face. . . [Closing is about following President Hu Jintao’s leadership in tackling all of the above-mentioned issues and “promoting social harmony and stability.”]
国务院新闻办公室门户网站 | 发布:2011-11-28 | 来源:人民日报 | 作者:

王 晨










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