Associate Professor Tim Dwyer and PhD candidate Weiwei Xu write in The Conversation.
The tragic explosion in the Chinese city of Tianjin, which has so far claimed the lives of 114 people including 19 firefighters, triggered a nationwide online conversation in China.
The widespread social sharing of video and chatter prompted various public and official responses. Among the most shared tweets, a screenshot of a tear-shedding conversation between two firefighters on WeChat, the country’s most popular instant messaging tool.
Also popular was a cartoon named the “world’s coolest retrograding”. It was retweeted more than 700,000 times on the micro-blogging site Sina Weibo, attracting more then 57,000 comments and 300,000 likes within hours.
The disaster has become the most viewed news event on a social media platform. The hashtag #Tianjin Tanggu massive explosion has so far had 3.32 billion views on Sina Weibo, 3.62 million comments and 420,000 followers (weibo.com).
With the surge in sharing, China’s internet regulators have busied themselves monitoring “unhealthy” tweets on social media platforms including both Weibo and WeChat. Shortly after the disaster, rumours including tweets referring to, “terrorist attacks”, “shops looted”, “no survivor within 1 kilometre of the site” and “sodium cyanide leaking into city’s sewage”, were widely dispersed.
Chinese officials have displayed “zero tolerance” towards online rumours after the Tianjin events, according to China’s internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). More than 360 social media accounts on Weibo and WeChat have been investigated, resulting in 160 being permanently shut down and 200 more suspended. Fifty “rumour-mongering” sites were investigated in further detail, leading to 18 of these accounts being revoked.
These powerful intermediaries are reconfiguring how we produce, distribute, promote and consume news.
The WeChat account of Zhengzhou Evening News, a municipal level local newspaper, was forced to close for a week after the account circulated information that the leadership of Tianjin government would reshuffle.
The open access of social media platforms has rendered the production and dissemination of “speculative” content both free and instantaneous, while the exponential growth in access to social media has allowed content to go viral.
Some of the messaging has created panic and fear among online users affected by the disaster.
However, the problematic proliferation of rumours has led to a push for more transparency and timely release of information from the government and state-run media. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said: “Rumours will fly if authorities do not release enough up-to-date information.”
He requested that the rumours stop, and that government agencies not fail to disclose any information.
China’s news industry, like many others, is experiencing rapid change as social media rewrites the patterns of communication that have been in existence for hundreds of years. The China Internet Network Information Center predicts that increasingly online news will be algorithmically recommended to users in a more individualistic way, exploiting data collection and mining techniques to push popular news to a user via a model that combines social network links, and digital browsing traces.
China has the world’s largest internet community and the most mobile users. The widespread use of mobile phones and web use has developed with the expansion of the middle class in China, which includes the new, old, marginal and “entrepreneurial” middle classes, as discussed in David Goodman’s book “Middle Class China”. While traditional media is simultaneously under attack and reinventing itself, new media enterprises are often the most nimble, strategic and innovative in this space.
By June 2015 the country’s online population had reached 668 million, around half of its total population. Expanding 4G mobile network use has further facilitated the use of social media networks. Growth in social media platforms and markets is central to this change – these powerful intermediaries are reconfiguring how we produce, distribute, promote and consume news.
More than 90.8% of China’s internet users have taken up instant messaging services including WeChat. More than 200 million people - almost 10 times the population of Australia - are registered on micro-blogging services including Sina Weibo.
The tension between innovative social media distribution businesses and a government with no intention of giving up control is forging the new mass-scale connective news culture in China.
First published on The Conversation
The protection of human rights is a basic test of a government's decency, writes Professor Ben Saul.
We’re helping more than 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Year 12 students prepare for exams and university life as part of the Bunga Barrabugu Winter Program this week.
As the world mourns the tragic loss of 50 lives, how can we answer the questions around homophobia and mental health raised by the Orlando shooting? Our researchers appeared on ABC’s The Drum to discuss the complex debate.
Mitchell Cleaver is the first Sydney Law School student to receive a dual degree from one of the UK's most prestigious law schools.
From 2017, commencing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander undergraduate students will be offered guaranteed and subsidised accommodation and a structured peer mentoring program.
Did a man called Jesus of Nazareth walk the earth? Discussions over whether the figure known as the “Historical Jesus” actually existed primarily reflect disagreements among atheists, writes Raphael Lataster.
Professor Shane Houston reflects, takes stock and considers the future of education for Aboriginal people in Australia as we celebrate 50 years since Dr Charles Perkins graduated from the University of Sydney.
University of Sydney graduate Thomas Williamson (BEc '13) will explore new ways to help smallholder coffee farmers in sub-Saharan Africa boost their economic ties to Australia as winner of the 2017 NSW Rhodes Scholarship.
Floating suburbs could solve the residential problems facing Sydney’s increasing population, believes Hillary Pan, our first Lendlease Bradfield Urbanisation Scholarship finalist.
The new Centre signifies a joint industry and University of Sydney determination to adopt on-farm technologies, ramp up export capacity and develop future leaders in non-traditional areas of horticulture.