week 3: project proposal (Zheng Li)

Research background and argument

Social media is playing an increasingly important role in our daily life. The reason why we should pay attention to the impact of social media is that nowadays, people, especially students, depend heavily on social media to gain the latest information. Social media has become a platform for people to learn about the trends of the society and the on-going events in other countries. The content and quality of the information flowed on social media can have a great impact on how we think and act. Therefore, it is significant to emphasize transparency and equality on social media to make sure that everyone can have an equal access to information. As a transfer student from China, I have noticed that there is a huge difference in censorship system between China and America. I did not realize that what I learned from Chinese social media sites was biased and purposely altered by the government until I got to the states. I found out much more information that may be automatically deleted in China from American social media sites. I wanted to learn more about the differences in censorship and figure out how they might impact the way ordinary people perceive social events.

Because social media is too broad to analyze, I plan to focus my study on social networking sites, such as Twitter and Face-book. My project is to find out how information is distributed in a different way under different censorships. And I want to compare different censorships on social media sites between China and America to yield the answers. The political systems are totally different in China and America, which might explain the huge differences in censorships. My research question is to find out how differences in censorships affect the transparency of information on social networking sites. I also want to analyze why Chinese and American governments take different censorship policies, what their intentions are and the potential impacts of these censorship policies.

Data collection

To compare the differences in censorship on social media between America and China, it is important to collect related data to directly measure the differences instead of giving a general conclusion. In order to determine the answer of my research question, I am going to select two typical social networking sites from each country. I will compare the differences between Twitter and Sina Weibo(a Chinese social networking site similar to Twitter). The reason why I pick up these two social networking sites is that they are both very popular and that the data of these two companies is easier to be found.

To effectively approach my research, firstly, I need to know more about the regulations and laws on social media use in America and China. Most of the information will be collected through online research. I may use Google scholar and Chinese academic research tool to find out the information. After learning the differences of censorship, I will focus on collecting related data on Twitter and Sina Weibo. To see how information is censored in a different way on these two sites, I am going to compare how these two companies distribute information on a specific social event. After doing my initial research on Chinese censorship, I have learned that information containing politically sensitive terms can be automatically deleted by the government even before it is distributed online on Chinese social media. Therefore, I may pick up a sensational political event in China and see the differences on how information is spread on Twitter and Weibo.

Inspired by the articles I read last week, I come up with another way to collect data for the research—conducting a survey or an interview. I may interview both Chinese students and local American students to ask them about the transparency of information on social media and how they perceive a specific event based on the information they can access on the social media. Their different responses can help me to figure out the differences of information on social media under different censorship and how it might lead to difference perceptions on specific events.

Project presentation details

I am still not sure about what kind of presentation to use. But I think that a detailed research paper might be a good choice for my topic. I might add interview videos into my final project to prove that censorship on social media will have a profound impact on how people perceive information. I may also make some charts and tables to clearly present the data and to show the comparison of social media censorships between America and China.

Part two: two questions:

  • Could you give me other ways to collect data for my topic?
  • Do you know what specific websites I can find more information on Twitter or information related on American regulations on social media?

2 thoughts on “week 3: project proposal (Zheng Li)

  1. I’m actually very interested in this topic as well. I believe that there are many specific events that you could go more into depth with that would really add a great deal to this project. The most recent event involving social media/internet censorship that I can think of would definitely have to be the censorship that went down in Hong Kong during the protests. You could definitely look into what kind of actions were taken by the government to censor them, and the ways in which the protesters fought against this censorship.
    In America, I don’t believe that we necessarily have any regulations set against the kind of things that people post. This should fall under our constitutional right of free speech and free press, but most of the censorship that happens online in America is usually done through self-monitoring and other users deciding what is appropriate and not appropriate to post, rather than being a government mandated issue.


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