Troubled by Internet trolling? China may offer management inspiration

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/31 22:48:40

Facebook said Monday that an estimated 126 million US users may have been exposed to content uploaded by Russia-based operatives over the last two years in its Russiagate testimony.

It is time to reflect on why social media companies like Facebook can create such a huge influence and why the US governing system, which Washington once believed to be flawless, has become so passive and vulnerable when faced with the development of social media. All the investigations and criticism between Democrats and Republicans are for the moment nothing more than belated efforts.

Most people naturally seem to prefer ideas or information that are similar to their own outlooks, and tend to filter out different opinions. That's exactly how social media works - the information they provide for you is highly likely to be what you wish to know. On Facebook, the links people click, share and like mostly come from their friends, who usually share similar interests, opinions and ways of doing things. In such a circle, any viewpoint or sentiment can be consolidated, magnified and generate a great impact on the group, ironically, just like Hillary Clinton's campaign motto, "Stronger Together."

With such power, social media can not only guide, but also mislead or even manipulate public opinion. The US, which used to emphasize freedom of expression, may have realized that their outdated management system should be blamed for the emergence of extremists on social media and the flood of fake news.

Governments worldwide, including those in the West, are all looking for the most suitable way to regulate the Internet. In this regard, Washington has been using its experience of governing the real world as a reference to rule the virtual world, and it is convinced that its way is the only one, and the optimal one.

Some in the US also presumptuously accuse other nations over their strict cyber-security laws, and encourage governments to step aside and let social media thrive. How has it turned out? Americans now see that the cyber world can turn the real world upside down.

China, on the other hand, has made positive moves, such as its regulations for WeChat and Weibo, which instills greater discipline while at the same time providing greater freedom. Despite critiques from the West, the development of Chinese social media is more stable, which has far less impact on China's politics than those in the US. The Chinese government, in turn, can better build consensus and resolve social problems, rather than falling into a messy situation where the government's capacity for decision-making and execution are frittered away.

Of course, Beijing is still adjusting and reforming its way of social media management. But its basic position is that government must not simply be a spectator. Perhaps the US can find some inspiration from Chinese experience.

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