In my last blog post, I outlined four basic things one needs to know about Chinese social media. And as I promised, I will introduce some softwares and websites that I find useful and inspiring during my research on Chinese Internet and social media.
Ideally, you would want to learn Chinese if you really want to get involved in Weibo, WeChat, QZone, or other popular Chinese social media platforms because however globalized they are, they are still in a Chinese-language dominant environment. If you are a researcher, knowing Chinese and using these social media in their Chinese-language will help you have a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of the softwares since many functions are only available in Chinese.
Take Tencent WeChat’s content management as an example. If a WeChat user decide certain content is inappropriate, he/she can “report” the article: based on one the following reasons: fraud, pornography, political rumour, general knowledge rumour, promoting sharing for misleading purposes, malicious market, collecting private information, copyright infringement, or others (impersonation, slander, plagiarism).
These categories cover most of the activities outlined as forbidden in WeChat’s Chinese-language Service Agreement, which is interestingly more extensive than its English-language “Acceptable Use Policy.” In the English-language version, there is no mentioning of “feudal superstitions” and rumour as being off-limits while they are specifically cited in section 18.104.22.168 of the Chinese-language Service Agreement. Similarly, if you are using the English-language WeChat, optional reasons of reporting a post are limited to Porn, Scam, Harassment, Copyright infringement, and Others.
But what if you don’t know anything about Chinese and neither do you intend to learn it anytime soon? Below are some tools that could help you cope with the language barriers, to some extent.
This website is created by Xiao Qiang, professor at School of Information, UC Berkely. As it stated on the website, CDT aims to “amplify the voices of Chinese netizens through translation” and “reveal the hidden mechanisms of state censorship by collecting and translating filtered keywords, propaganda directives, and official rhetoric”. It is a great source if you want to keep track of trending topics, buzzwords in Chinese Internet as well as the latest censorship and directives issued by the Chinese propaganda departments. CDT has its mobile application which enables you to get real-time notification on relevant information as well.
- WeiboScope by the University of Hong Kong Journalism School
What is the hottest and most discussed news in China? Probably the coming military parade on September 3 as commemoration of China’s “War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression as well as the World Anti-Fascist War”. Maybe the recent stock market “crash” as well. And what are some of the most frequently censored words in Sina Weibo these days? Military parade and speculations on China’s stock market crash — not surprisingly.
WeiboScope is a Chinese social media data collection and visualization project developed by the research team at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at HKU. Its objective is to document and make accessible censored Sina Weibo posts of a selected group of Chinese microbloggers. You can find out what the latest censored words, pictures, and posts on this website. Moreover, its censorship index allows you to see which part of China is experiencing most censorship at the moment.
Although I am not a student of HKU, I sincerely feel that as a social media researcher, I am deeply indebted to the faculty and research team at its Journalism School. China Media Project, like WeiboScope, is established by HKU in late 2003. The project is directed by Qian Gang, a veteran Chinese journalist and well-known author of several books on journalism, and Yuen-ying Chan, founder and director of HKU Journalism School.
Compared to WeiboScope, which focuses primarily on Sina Weibo, CMP is more academic and more comprehensive in covering Chinese Internet and media. It documents and analyzes the process of media reform in China and the formal and informal factors that influence it. You’ll find English explanations of Chinese media buzzwords, articles analyzing latest media reform and development in China on this website.
I am sure many of you have seen these graphics and images before. These are generated by social network analysis that characterizes networked structures in terms of nodes (individual actors, people, or things within the network) and the ties or edges (relationships or interactions) that connect them. For Twitter/Facebook analysis, there is an open-source third-party tool called NodeXL developed by Marc Smith. But as I mentioned in the previous blog post, Chinese social media is very much of Chinese characteristics. NodeXL and most major social media analysis softwares do not support data collection from Chinese social media platforms. This is where the Weibo Visual Analytic System created by PKU kicks in.
This tool can automatically perform social network analysis of certain Sina Weibo posts or Weibo users for you. Simply input the user ID, keywords, or the URL of a particular Weibo, it can help track the dissemination path of information for you. Like NodeXL, however, it has limits on how many Weibo posts you can track and analyze at one time.
- Some news websites
if your goal is simply to follow trending public debates on Chinese Internet and social media, Danwei owed by Financial Times, Tea Leaf Nation under Foreign Policy, China File affiliated with Asia Society, Shanghaiist are all useful resources to look into.