China Has a Big Data Policy Setting Everyone Back

December 5, 2017

China is very tightlipped about the way its government handles dissent. However, with the aid of data mining and fake news, they are no longer crushing opposing voices, they are drowning them out. We learned more in the Vox piece, “China is Perfecting a New Method for Suppressing Dissent on the Internet.”

Their paper, titled “How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, Not Engaged Argument,” shows how Beijing, with the help of a massive army of government-backed internet commentators, floods the web in China with pro-regime propaganda.

What’s different about China’s approach is the content of the propaganda. The government doesn’t refute critics or defend policies; instead, it overwhelms the population with positive news (what the researchers call “cheerleading” content) in order to eclipse bad news and divert attention away from actual problems.

Seems like an unwinnable situation for China. However, it would be interesting to see what some of the good guys fighting fake news could do in this situation. We already know big data can be useful in stifling false news stories and intentionally abrasive points of view. But with China not exactly letting outside influence in easily, this will be an uphill battle for the Chinese online community.

Patrick Roland, December 5, 2017

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