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The limits of commercialized censorship in China

Miller, Blake Andrew Phillip ORCID: 0000-0002-4707-0984 (2018) The limits of commercialized censorship in China. .

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Identification Number: 10.31235/


Despite massive investment in China’s censorship program, internet platforms in China are rife with criticisms of the government and content that seeks to organize opposition to the ruling Communist Party. Past works have attributed this “openness” to deliberate government strategy or lack of capacity. Most, however, do not consider the role of private social media companies, to whom the state delegates information controls. I suggest that the apparent incompleteness of censorship is largely a result of principal-agent problems that arise due to misaligned incentives of government principals and private media company agents. Using a custom dataset of annotated leaked documents from a social media company, Sina Weibo, I find that 16% of directives from the government are disobeyed by Sina Weibo and that disobedience is driven by Sina’s concerns about censoring more strictly than competitor Tencent. I also find that the fragmentation inherent in the Chinese political system exacerbates this principal agent problem. I demonstrate this by retrieving actual censored content from large databases of hundreds of millions of Sina Weibo posts and measuring the performance of Sina Weibo’s censorship employees across a range of events. This paper contributes to our understanding of media control in China by uncovering how market competition can lead media companies to push back against state directives and increase space for counter-hegemonic discourse.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Additional Information: © 2018 The Author, CC0 1.0 Universal
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2019 15:51
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 12:16

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