September 19, 2013
Researchers at Beihang University analyzed 70 million “tweets” from the Chinese social networking site called Weibo.
It was determined that over a 6 month period, anger was the emotion most likely to spread throughout the social media site, having a ripple effect that could inspire enraged posts within 3 degrees of separation from the originating poster.
In the study entitled, “Anger is More Influential than Joy: Sentiment Correlation in Weibo” showed that one angry poster could cause a flood of angry posts.
Researchers mapped the “tweets” and placed them into categories according to emoticons: anger, joy, sadness and disgust.
The spread of joyful and disgusted “tweets” on Weibo were “trivial”; however anger spread like wildfire.
According to the study: “Our results show that anger is more influential than other emotions like joy, which indicates that the angry tweets can spread quickly and broadly in the network. While out of our expectation, the correlation of sadness is low.”
It is assumed that this study would be reflective of the Weibo community, which is made up of citizens of China and therefore reflective of their culture and not indicative of other similar sites, such as Twitter.
Although it is widely known that one person can influence the masses’ behavior, strong dependence on social media is liken to the same phenomenon to those observed on real life.
Like an infectious disease, a social meme can shift the general public’s consciousness and thereby causing societal constructs to change as well.
This study is perfectly timed to compliment the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) who issued a statement regarding their new policy on punishing online bloggers and deterring new ones from replacing them on the internet.
A provision in the new Chinese Criminal Law outlines:
• The “new left” using propaganda attacks online
• Blames ant-Chinese ideology on the web
• US propaganda about China influencing citizens
Article 246 of China’s Criminal Law defines criminal defamation to discourage the spread of online rumors and information not government sanctioned.
In effect, this definition will criminalize any “information networks…that use electronic equipment” to cause “public chaos” or “seriously [endanger] social order or the national interests.”
It is also explained in Article 246 that any citizen that “publicly humiliates another person or invents stories to defame him, if the circumstances are serious” could be held for up to 3 years in a government prison.
The time allotted to the accused could be extended if “serious harm is done to public order or to the interests of the State.”
Should the Chinese government deem a post a danger to “the social order and national interest”, the authorities can seize the user and imprison him/her.
An online post that is considered a possible instigator in “a mass incident”, “public chaos”, “ethnic or religious conflicts”, “defamation of multiple persons that creates a repugnant social impact[or] harms the national image, seriously endangering national interests,” or “creates a repugnant national impact” and “other situations” could also be applied to television images, land-line phones and cellular devices.
A “legal weapon” as defined by the Article 246 explains that persons who engage in “intentional fabrication and online dissemination of false information” that causes the “upset of social order” will be found and prosecuted.
If that individual is found to be “organizing or inciting others to disseminate [false information ] on information networks, creating a punishable uproar or causing public chaos” they will be sent to prison.
In 2012, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (SCNPC) in China passed a law which requires citizens using the internet to identify themselves when signing up for Web and phone services.
Blaming social media “discussions” for having increased “instability in certain regions” there will be a real name registration that “will make web users more cautious when posting comments online.”
The newly approved legislation forces internet users to use their real names when signing up for internet, mobile phones or land-line phone service. This stipulation will allow them to post information or commentary online.
Chinese state-sponsored media stated that “the law should escort the development of the internet to protect people’s interest. Only that way can our internet be healthier, more cultured and safer.”
Murong Xuecun, a prominent Chinese writer, explains: “Their intention is very clear: It is to take back that bit of space for public opinion, that freedom of speech hundreds of millions of Chinese Internet users have strived for.”
Network service providers will be required to have their customers use their real names and other identification to post commentary in public forums.
It has been proposed that an ID card would be issued to citizens with specific numbers attached to them that could corroborate their identity.
The philosophy behind such measures is that “There is no absolute Internet freedom. Internet information has its own boundaries — it must not harm others’ freedom, be subject to moral standards, and comply with laws and regulations.”
Li Fei, deputy director of the legislature’s Legal Work Committee and member of the SCNPC, said that “this is needed for the healthy development of the Internet.” Fei went on to say that “the country’s constitution protects citizens’ rights in supervising and criticizing the state and government officials’ behavior.”
The Chinese government justifies this move as preserving the integrity of the internet from those who would choose to make defamatory statements against the government with malice and hide under anonymity.
The SCNPC believes that they are following suit after other countries who have recently installed similar controls over the free flow of information and commentary on the internet.