Gatekeeping & Exploring Information Control in Networks in China Research Paper

Abstract

Background. The fast progress of technologies raised the problem of the information control in China, where the government  censorship and information control was traditionally very strong. In response to the problem of the emergence of information flow in networks, The Chinese government has introduced gatekeeping and various information control tools to keep the information flow in internet and other networks under the government control. Purpose. The purpose of the current study is to find out gatekeeping and information control in networks in China and approaches used by Chinese government. Also the study aims at the revelation of effects of gatekeeping and information control on human rights and the possible use of gatekeeping and information control to enhance the information security.  Methods. The methods used in the course of the current study involve the secondary data analysis and interviews and questionnaires. The same population involves IT professionals and human rights experts, who may uncover technical aspects of gatekeeping and information control as well as their effects on human rights and possible applications in terms of the enhancement of information security. Results. The study reveals the negative impact of gatekeeping and information control in networks on human rights in China. The government uses gatekeeping and information control for censorship in internet and other networks. At the same time, gatekeeping and information control methods may help to enhance the control over the information flow to enhance the information security and to prevent the spread of offensive information via internet and other public networks.

1 Introduction

            1.1 Background of the study

            The fast progress of technologies raised the problem of the information control in China, where the government  censorship and information control was traditionally very strong. In response to the problem of the emergence of information flow in networks, The Chinese government has introduced gatekeeping and various information control tools to keep the information flow in internet and other networks under the government  control.

            The purpose of the current study is to focus on the analysis of gatelkeepng and information control of networks in China. As The Chinese government  conducts very strict policies oriented on censorship of internet and networks, the government  introduces advanced methods of information control and gatekeeping that restrict the access of users to certain webpages and allows the government  to keep the tight control over the information circulating online. In such a situation, the study of gatekeeping and information control in networks in China can help to understand strategies and tools used by the Chinese authorities to keep control of the information flow in internet and other networks. Such understanding will help to find effective ways to protect the data and information flow from external control or interference.

            On the other hand, the study of gatekeeping and information control in networks in China will help to find effective strategies of keeping control over the information shared online and within networks. Such strategies and tools may be helpful to prevent the spread of offensive information or other information that is inappropriate or somehow offensive. The Chinese government and government  agencies have made a considerable progress in this field and their experience is worth studying in terms of the enhancement of the information control without violation of human rights as is the case of China.

            The information control provides The Chinese government with the possibility of the enhancement of the ideology defined by the Chinese Communist Party that holds the power in China. The development of effective policies can help the government  to determine the right approach to the information control but, in case of China, such control involves the excessive use of censorship. The experience of China reveals the ultimate case of the violation of human rights, on the one hand, while, on the other hand, this experience may help to develop effective approaches to the information control that may enhance current approaches used in other countries, including democratic ones, where human rights are fully protected. Therefore, the study of the experience of China in terms of gatekeeping and information control.

            1.2 The nature of the work performed

            The study focused on the analysis of the secondary data and interviews and questionnaires that involved IT professionals and human rights experts. The development of the current study involves the analysis of the information concerning gatekeeping and information control in networks in China. The analysis is based on the evaluation of existing methods of control used by The Chinese government and government  agencies that enhances the government  control over the information flow in internet. The qualitative study will focus on the evaluation of existing strategies and approaches used by The Chinese government for gatekeeping and information control. The study will focus on specific legal issues and approaches applied to find out legal consequences of such policy and its technical effectiveness in terms of the information control that aims at the prevention of the circulation of offensive information.

            1.3 The state of the problem

            At the same time, internet keeps progressing and China is also vulnerable to the growth of internet users. In such a situation, the growth of internet users may raise the problem of the effective information control but, in case of China, this problem is aggravated by the focus on The Chinese government  on the total government  control over the information flow and deep-rooted tradition of censorship of the information shared by internet users as well as by citizens via other media. Censorship is the main issue that drives gatekeeping and information control in China because China needs to enhance its control over internet. The emergence of online blogging, especially in the 2010s has urged The Chinese government to enhance the government  control over the information flow in internet and micro blogging in particular. In such a situation, the prevention of the circulation of information that criticized The Chinese government policies is one of the priorities of gatekeeping and information control in networks in China.

            At the moment, China is one of the most restricted countries in the world in terms of gatekeeping and information control in networks. The government  attempts to maintain the extensive control over internet users. In such a way, the problem of gatekeeping and information control is one of the main issues in legal terms in China because the overwhelming government  control over the information flow raises the problem of the violation of basic human rights of Chinese citizens.

            On the other hand, the problem of gatekeeping and information control also refers to the use of various approaches used by the government  and government  agencies to maintain the information control and gatekeeping in networks. Such control becomes overwhelming but approaches to gatekeeping and information control applied by the The Chinese government reveal new ways to enhance the control over the information flow in networks. Such approaches may be used not only for censorship as is the case of China but also for the effective information control and prevention of spreading offensive information or violation of privacy rights as well as other legal purposes in democratic countries.

2 Literature review

            2.1 Theoretical background of gatekeeping

            Gatekeeping is a relatively new term that has emerged in the internet era to provide the theoretical explanation and description of the mechanism of the information control, when the information enters network or a particular online resource. At this point, the definition of the key terms is essential for the adequate understanding of gatekeeping and information control in networks in China because China has reached the high level of development of information control. The gate is the entrance to or the exit from a network or its sections (Porter, 2004). Hence, the term gatekeeping is the process of controlling information as it moves through a gate. Gatekeeping activities include such activities as selection, addition, withholding, display, channeling, shaping, manipulation, repetition, timing, localization, integration, disregard and deletion of information (Prusak & Cohen, 2001). The Chinese government agencies apply gatekeeping to control the flow of information in internet. To conduct such control, The Chinese government agencies use the gatekeeping mechanism, which is the tool, technology or methodology used to carry out the process of gatekeeping. In such a situation, Chnese government  agencies perform the function of network gatekeeper, which is the entity (people, organizations, or government s) that has the discretion to exercise gatekeeping through a gatekeeping mechanism in networks and can choose the extent to which to exercise it. Gated – Entity that is subject to a gatekeeping process (Nuechterlein & Weiser 2005).

            Gatekeepers in networks have three prime goals. First, preventing the entrance of undesired information from the outside (Pfleeger, Pfleeger, & Ware 2012). The prevention of the undesirable information from entering internet or another network involves filtering and blocking the undesirable information to prevent its penetration to enter. In such a way, gatekeeping raises barriers on the way of the information to enter the network. The task of the gate keeper is to track, identify and ban the information before it enters the network. In case of China, state agencies that focus on censorship perform the function of gate keeper.

            Second, gatekeeping aims at the prevention of the exit of undesired information to the outside (Sung-Eui & Kwangtae, 2002). The undesired information is locked on certain webpages and prevented from sharing online. In such a way, the undesired information remains within online resources but it is unavailable to other users. Gatekeeping turns out to be quite effective since it actually blocks the undesired information and locks it up without any possibility of information leakage or access of the average users.

            The third goal of gatekeeping is controlling information inside the network (Pfleeger, Pfleeger, & Ware 2012). Gatekeeping involves the control over the information flow and the identification of the undesired information that may be either filtered or block. The gate keeper may use any available tool to prevent the undesirable information from circulating within the network. At the same time, tracking the information is quite challenging and it is one of the major problems the gate keeper confronts while attempting to control the information within the network. At this point, it is important not only to control the flow of information but also sort it out and identify the undesirable information.

            2.2 Internet in Chinese socio-cultural and political context

            The development of The Chinese government policies concerning internet use and the information control emerge from deep-rooted traditions and the political environment of China. To put it more precisely, China is the authoritarian state where the power is consolidated in hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) only and no other political force can challenge the leading role f the CCP in China. In such a situation, the CCP needs the full control over the ideology of Chinese people and uses the ideology and propaganda to maintain the communist regime in the country. The government  uses all available means to suppress any opposition or dissident movement. Instead, the government  focuses its efforts on the enhancement of its position and positive view of the government  among the average Chinese people. To meet this goal, The Chinese government and government  agencies use mass media and various tools of control that help the government  to create the positive image of the government  and political leaders of China and keep minds of Chinese people under control. The Chinese government uses all available media, including the most popular ones such as television and, more recently, internet.

            Article 35 of the constitution guarantees freedoms of speech, assembly, association, and publication, but such rights are subordinated to the discretion of the CCP and its status as the ruling power (Stallings, 2001). This is the legal ground that justifies government  actions oriented on the suppression of the freedom of speech and propaganda of the communist ideology. In this regard, censorship has become one of the most widely-used and effective tools that help The Chinese government to maintain the information control and to protect its interests. Censorship is applied widely and affects different fields and media, including print media, television and internet. The government  controls the largest TV channels and companies and holds control over the media nationwide. Censorship is obligatory, even though it may be not always obvious in China. In this regard, the government  has the large, well-developed network that helps to use censorship nationwide and to keep the state ideology valid and viable in Chinese society.

            Moreover, the constitution cannot, in most cases, be invoked in court as a legal basis for asserting individual rights. Judges are appointed by the CCP and generally follow its directives, particularly in politically sensitive cases (Pfleeger, Pfleeger, & Ware 2012). In such a way, The Chinese government has created a solid legal basis which protects its interests and prevents any cases that may be filed against the government. Such protection is essential for the authoritarian regime.

            The CCP maintains direct control over news media coverage through its Central Propaganda Department (CPD) and corresponding branches at lower administrative levels that determine the boundaries of permissible reporting (Shoemaker, et al., 2001). Such control helps the government  to shape the public opinion and to keep control over minds of Chinese people. The control over mass media and news media coverage leads to the formation of the worldview that meets interests of the government . In other words, the government simply conveys news and messages which present the government  in a positive light.

            China is home to the largest number of internet users in the world, with the figure surpassing 560 million, or approximately 42 percent of the population, in 2012 (Pfleeger, Pfleeger, & Ware 2012). Over 400 million accounts had been opened on domestic microblogging services by the end of the year, though the number of regularly active users is smaller, estimated to range in the tens of millions (Pfleeger, Pfleeger, & Ware 2012). Therefore, the large number of internet users and the emergence of microblogging raise the threat to the government  because they can share their ideas freely and the government  may have little opportunities to keep them under control and to control the information flow. However, this is not exactly the case of China, where the government focuses on the development of gatekeeping and information control strategies and tools.

            A 2012 study of Chinese public opinion and crisis management reported that online sources accounted for nearly 65 percent of breaking news reports in 2011, versus just over 30 percent for traditional media (Pfleeger, Pfleeger, & Ware 2012). In such a way, the role of internet as the mainstream media in China has increased drastically since the 2010s. At the beginning of the internet era, traditional media, such as television, played the main part in the formation of the public opinion but, today, internet is the mainstream media that shapes the public opinion and affects the perception of various events and news coverage in China.

            The government has developed the world’s most sophisticated and multilayered apparatus for censoring, monitoring, and manipulating online content. Nationwide technical filtering restricts users’ access to uncensored information hosted outside of China (Pfleeger, Pfleeger, & Ware 2012). One of the most important functions of the filtering system has been to permanently block international social-media applications like the video-sharing site YouTube, the social-networking site Facebook, and the microblogging platform Twitter (Pfleeger, Pfleeger, & Ware 2012).

            On multiple occasions in 2012, cumulative pressure from microblog users prompted mainstream media to address sensitive stories or compelled the government to offer concessions, such as the release of a petitioner from a labor camp, the dismissal of corrupt officials, and upgrades to air-quality monitoring (Pfleeger, Pfleeger, & Ware 2012). The growing pressure from the part of online users has urged the government to focus on the enhancement of the information control in internet. Gatekeeping and information control became strategically important for The Chinese government to keep the national ideology and the public opinion in China under its full control as it has been for decades since the establishment of the communist regime in China.

            The authorities have also taken steps to actively guide online discussion. Since 2004, CCP and government officials at all levels have recruited and trained an army of paid web commentators, known informally as the Fifty Cent Party (Pfleeger, Pfleeger, & Ware 2012). Their tasks include posting pro-government remarks, tracking public opinion, disrupting or diverting criticism, and participating in public online chats with officials to provide the appearance of state-citizen interaction (Singer & Gonzalez-Valez, 2003). Such steps help the government to enhance and maintain the control over internet and information flow in the network.          

3 Theoretical contribution

            The development of the current study involves the use of the Social Responsibility theory which holds the premise that mass media should be responsible in regard to society. In this regard, the social responsibility implies not just the social responsibility of mass media but also the government  social responsibility in regard to people of China because the government  holds the total control over mass media and its regulatory policies prevent the free development of mass media. In such a situation, the question that begs is whether The Chinese government conducts socially responsible policies or not by establishing the strict control over mass media. The social responsibility implies matching needs and interests of society and local communities. In such a context, the development of mass media and related government  policies in China should comply with interests and needs of society and local communities. Otherwise, the government  policy contradicts to the principle of social responsibility.

            At the same time, The Chinese government develops policies that aim at the stiff control over mass media but the problem is that the government  control over mass media does not mean the social responsibility of the government  because the accountability of The Chinese government to Chinese people. Authoritarian trends in The Chinese government raise the problem of the irresponsible policy conducted by the state in regard to citizens to the extent that the state becomes the oppressor of citizens. In terms of the Social Responsibility theory it is possible to define government  policies and its attempts to control the information flow in networks as well as conventional mass media are manifestations of its irresponsible policies in regard to Chinese citizens and society at large.

            In this regard, the question of the social responsibility of mass media, such as internet arises. The growing number of internet users and emerging threats from the part of microblogging and online users reveals that the government  policy of the government  control over mass media is irresponsible in regard to Chinese people. The government  suppresses criticism from the part of people, while people raise issues that are really important for them. Internet has become one of a few opportunities for them to express their ideas freely, but the government  is trying to set a strict control over internet as well as other mass media to prevent any manifestation of disrespect or dissatisfaction with the CCP. In such a situation, the Social Responsibility Theory uncovers the failure of The Chinese government to conduct policies that are responsible in social terms.

            At the same time, the current study gives implications to the possible use of gatekeeping and information control tools used by The Chinese government to enhance the control over the flow of offensive information in internet in democratic countries. Such findings may help to protect users from obtaining offensive information or sharing such information online. In other words, the current study may help to find effective ways to protect users from undesirable information. In such a context, findings of the current study may contribute to the social responsibility of the government  and companies operating in the field of internet and e-commerce because they will be able to use tools of information control to conduct socially responsible policies. Such policies will help the government  and companies to develop their own social responsibility policy that will comply with interests and needs of society and local community. The policy of the social responsibility will comply with the key norms of the Social Responsibility theory.

            At the same time, the current study reveals existing gaps in the Social Responsibility theory, when the theory is applied to the country, where democratic norms and social norms remain under-developed compared to well-developed democratic countries. The development of effective information control policies contributes to the protection of the public from illegal or negative actions or information flow online. In such a context, the information control is definitely positive and complies with the Social Responsibility Theory. This is why the current study intends to reveal effective ways to make the information control an effective tool in hands of the authorities rather than the offensive tool as it is in hands of The Chinese government to suppress the freedom of speech and thoughts.

            The development of effective social responsibility policy should become the priority of gatekeeping and information control in networks, including gatekeeping and information control in China. Such application of the government  control over the information flow as well as the use of information control methods used by China will help to make the government  policy and information policies more effective and responsible in social terms that is one of the main goals of the current study. The identification of existing gatekeeping and information control tools to enhance the public  safety and information security along with the protection of the public from offensive or undesirable information online should become one of the priorities of policy makers. Such application of gatekeeping and information control tools will comply with the Social Responsibility theory and its assumptions that mass media should serve to public interests and comply with interests and needs of society rather than with corporate or government  interests as is the case of China, at the moment.

4 Research Questions/Hypothesis

            What are methods used by the Chinese authorities to keep control over information flow and gatekeeping? Methods used by The Chinese government may help to uncover whether these methods are effective in terms of the respect to human rights and interests of Chinese citizens. In addition, the response to such question may help to find out effects of The Chinese government policies as well as reveal implications for the further use of information control tools in China as well as other countries.

            What are effects of Chinese gatekeeping and information control in networks policies?  At this point, it is important to focus on legal and human rights effects of the government  policy of China in regard to gatekeeping and information control in networks. The involvement of the government  into control over internet use may lead to the violation of basic human rights.

            What are implications of gatekeeping and information control in networks for human rights? The analysis of Chinese policies will reveal the full extent to which existing gatekeeping and information control in networks affect human rights in China. In this regard, the literature review has already revealed multiple implications to the violation of basic human rights by The Chinese government in the course of the application of gatekeeping and information control tools. Nevertheless, the further analysis will reveal specific ways in which The Chinese government implements the information control and how those tools may affect human rights of Chinese people.

            What are prospects of studying Chinese gatekeeping and information control in networks experience to enhance the information security in internet and other networks? The detailed analysis of Chinese gatekeeping and information control in networks may help to find effective ways to prevent users from offensive information as well as from the flow of information that may be harmful for users. This is why the study will show possible implications for using available technologies and methods used by The Chinese government to conduct the policy of gatekeeping and information control in networks.

            The hypothesis of the study implies that The Chinese government uses gatekeeping and information control tools to enhance the government  control over internet to maintain the communist ideology and use censorship in internet and such policies lead to the violation of human rights of Chinese internet users, but potentially such technologies may be used for the protection of users from the circulation of offensive and harmful information online and, thus, bring positive effects to users, if applied properly.

5 Method

            The methods used in the course of the current study involve the secondary data analysis and interviews and questionnaires. The same population involves IT professionals and human rights experts, who may uncover technical aspects of gatekeeping and information control as well as their effects on human rights and possible applications in terms of the enhancement of information security. Therefore, the current study uses the qualitative methodology to conduct the analysis of current policies of The Chinese government in regard to gatekeeping and information control in networks. The application of qualitative methods helps to determine specific issues that emerge in the course of using gatekeeping and information control as well as it helps to find out specific problems caused by such policies concerning human rights of Chinese internet users.

            The sample population includes IT professionals and human rights experts. The sample population will be selected randomly on the ground of their professional background and their expertise in the field of information technologies and human rights. They also have a solid knowledge of Chinese policies concerning internet and gatekeeping and information control in networks. The experience of work in China or the profound knowledge of the current situation in China is the essential criterion for the selection of the sample population. Participants of the study are of different age, gender and ethnicity to avoid any biases in terms of ethnic origin, gender or biases triggered by the age of participants of the study.

            All participants of the study sign the informed consent form to ensure that they understand adequately their involvement into the study and effects of the study on them. The informed consent form will provide the detailed information on the purpose of the study, the role of participants of the study, expected outcomes of the study and provide information on the right of participants to abandon the study anytime they like. Also the informed consent form provides the information on the confidentiality principle of the study which is milestone for the study. The confidentiality principle means that the private information of participants will never be uncovered to the third parties, whereas the participation in the study is conducted on the condition of anonymity to ensure that the private information of participants will never be uncovered.

            The secondary data survey will provide the detailed information on current policies conducted by the Chinese government in regard to internet use, with the focus on policies of gatekeeping and information control. The secondary data survey helps to reveal benefits as well as drawbacks of gatekeeing and information control. Moreover, such methodology contributes to the identification for outcomes of such policies for Chinese citizens. The critical analysis of current policies may help to find out the key issues that emerge in the result of the practical implementation of gatekeeping and information control policy in China.

            Interviews and questionnaires play an important part in the current study because they involve experts and their results will reveal the expert view and opinion concerning The Chinese government policy of gatekeeping and information control in networks at the moment. The revelation of the expert opinion and views helps to determine issues which do matter at the moment and may emerge in the future. At any rate, interviews and questionnaires provide the specific information from experts about the key issues investigated in the course of the current study.

            On the other hand, interviews and questionnaires have certain limitations, among which subjectivity of responses of participants of the study is one of the main issues that emerge. However, the level of subjectivity is relatively low because the study involves experts only. Therefore, they have the profound knowledge and expertise in their field that make them capable to make objective judgments about gatekeeping and information in networks in China and their implications and possible applications not only in China but also in other countries. Also their expertise responses may help to find effective ways to make Chinese policies of gatekeeping and information control in networks more effective and friendly in regard to human rights and democratic norms and principles.

6 Discussion

            The problem of gatekeeping being applied by the Chinese government is one of the main issues in the contemporary China with regard to human rights, the use of modern telecommunication technologies, information systems, and freedom of speech and press in China. Gatekeeping is quite controversial, especially in case of China, because, on the one hand, gatekeeping helps to keep the content and information flow under control to prevent the spread of offensive or harmful information or data, while, on the other hand, the Chinese government can and does use gatekeeping for censorship of internet and prevention of the free communication and information sharing between Chinese people. The controversy of gatekeeping used by the Chinese government evokes a strong criticism and uncovers negative effects of gatekeeping, if it is applied by the government to control the freedom of speech and the freedom of press.

            The study reveals the negative impact of gatekeeping and information control in networks on human rights in China. In this regard, the violation of the right to the freedom of speech and the freedom of press are the main concerns of civil rights activists in China as well as internationally. The Chinese government tends to use gatekeeping to suppress the freedom of speech and press. At this point, it is possible to refer to the growing trend toward the further deterioration of the freedom of press and speech in the Chinese segment of internet. To put it more precisely, the emergence of micro-blogging in China soon confronted the growing pressure from the part of Chinese government agencies which attempted to restrict their activities. In this regard, gatekeeping has become an effective tool in hands of Chinese government agencies to suppress micro-blogging that was critical in relation to the Chinese government and policies conducted by the government. Instead, the government encouraged proponents of the Chinese government to increase their presence online, including micro-blogging. As a result, the Chinese government used the gatekeeping as a sort of mind control tool because gatekeeping allowed the government to suppress criticism and restrict the flow of information that represents the Chinese government in the negative light. The violation of the freedom of speech and freedom of press right evokes a strong criticism of the Chinese government and its policy of gatekeeping.

            The government uses gatekeeping and information control for censorship in internet and other networks. Censorship was always the norm in China since the ruling Communist Party attempts to hold the full control over the political situation in the country and holds the full political power in its hands. In such a situation, censorship is the tool used by the Communist Party to avoid criticism and to shape the positive view of the government among citizens of China. This is why censorship is important and gatekeeping is used for censorship purposes.

            Nevertheless, the Chinese government justifies the use of gatekeeping by the protection of children and Chinese citizens from the offensive or harmful information. The current study and the analysis of the use of gatekeeping by Chinese government agencies reveal the fact that the main purpose of the Chinese government is rather to keep control over the information flow and apply censorship to internet rather than to protect Chinese citizens from offensive information, online predators and other issues, which gatekeeping was initially developed for. This is why claims of the Chinese government that the main purpose of gatekeeping and the wide involvement of government agencies in gatekeeping is the protection of citizens is the ultimate manifestation of the hypocrisy of the ruling regime in China and the government just manipulates with the public opinion and available technologies to meet its ends, which are censorship and mind control above all rather than the protection of citizens from offensive information and related issues.

            In this regard, findings of the current study comply with findings made by other researchers (MacKinnon, 2010; Press, Foster, Wolcot, & McHenry, 2002; Sung-Eui, C. and P. Kwangtae, 2002), who also revealed the fact that the Chinese government uses various tools and technologies to introduce and enhance censorship online. They argued that the Chinese government is very restrictive and censorship is a norm in Chinese society. The criticism of the ruling party is often viewed as the threat to national interests and critics of the Chinese government often end up in a jail or exile (Press, Foster, Wolcot, & McHenry, 2002). In such a situation, the current study just proves that gatekeeping is another tool in hands of Chinese government agencies to maintain the control over the information flow and to enhance censorship in internet. The government performs the role of the controller and the supervisor that takes decisions on what websites and information are dangerous and which are not. This is why they use gatekeeping to restrict the free flow of information. In this regard, the focus of government agencies is on political context and aspects of the information flow in the Chinese segment of internet. This is why the political background of gatekeeping is evident and proves findings of other researchers (MacKinnon, 2010; Press, Foster, Wolcot, & McHenry, 2002; Sung-Eui, C. and P. Kwangtae, 2002) that the Chinese government is repressive and uses censorship widely to suppress any form of opposition or public protest against policies conducted by the government at all levels.

            Nevertheless, the current study has revealed new aspects of censorship and restrictive policeis conducted by the Chinese government. Previous studies revealed numerous facts of censorship in print media, television, while some studies revealed emerging attempts of the Chinese government to set control and censorship online. However, previous studies did not provide specific tools which the Chinese government uses to enhance the online censorship. In this regard, the current study focuses on gatekeeping as effective and reliable tool that the Chinese government uses for the enhancement of censorship and control over the information flow and networks in China. Therefore, the current study uncovers the potential of gatekeeping and reveals the way how the Chinese government uses gatekeeping for censorship widely applied to online users, websites, bloggers and other representatives of the online community in China.

            The current study has also proved the overall effectiveness of gatekeeping as a tool of the information and network control. At this point, other researchers (Nuechterlein & Weiser, 2005; Pfleeger, Pfleeger, & Ware, 2012; Shoemaker, Eichholz, Kim, & Wrigley, 2001) also argued that gatekeeping is the effective tool of the network control. The effectiveness of gatekeeping in China has been proved in the course of the current study. For example, it is possible to refer to the downturn in the growth of micro-blogging and criticism of the Chinese government in micro-blogs, although micro-bloggers became the main critics of the Chinese government at the dawn of micro-blogging in China. In this regard, gatekeeping used by Chinese government agencies has played the determinant part in the suppression of criticism of the authorities by micro-bloggers. Hence, the current study uncovers new, sophisticated technologies used by the Chinese government to enhance censorship and control over internet in China and how gatekeeping is used to meet that end.

            At the same time, gatekeeping and information control methods may help to enhance the control over the information flow to enhance the information security and to prevent the spread of offensive information via internet and other public networks. The current study reveals the effectiveness of gatekeeping as the tool of censorship used by the Chinese government. However, this tool may also be used for other purposes, including the enhancement of the internet security for users, including children. The Chinese government declares that gatekeeping is used to protect users but the government does not only portect users but also violates their right to the freedom of speech and press. Instead, gatekeeping and methods used by the Chinese government may also be applied to democratic countries as well as organizations which want to really protect their users from offensive information. For example, children are vulnerable to activities of online predators, who may reach them easily, if there are no restrictions or control. In this regard, gatekeeping may help them to protect minor users from online predators and other online threats.

            At the same time, findings of the current study also reveal the potential danger of gatekeeping in hands of the government as well as other large organizations. Gatekeeping raises the problem of the excessive control and restrictions. There is a risk that any government or organization using gatekeeping may potentially follow the lead of the Chinese government and use gatekeeping as the tool of censorship and control of the information flow. This is why further studies are needed to find out effective ways to use gatekeeping safely in terms of the protection of basic human rights, such as the freedom of speech and press, and the protection of users from the offensive information spread online that needs control and gatekeeping.

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