Table of Contents

Comment Icon0 To account for recent revelations of public deliberations as well as the PEW research reports of Chinese citizens’ preference for government regulation of the Internet (March 2008), trust in peer-produced media was compared with that of established media online (such as personal blogs vs newspaper websites), as measured under the News Credibility Scale (Gaziano & McGrath, 1986). How citizens preferred online news to be managed (through self-censorship or government regulation), as measured through the Locus of Control Scale (Rotter, 1954), was also considered.

Comment Icon0 Julian Rotter’s Locus of Control (1954) exists as an important aspect of personality and is understood in the perceived degree of having internal or external control of one’s environment. In this study of Internet use in China, a high internal locus of control would indicate that Chinese netizens prefer control over their own media consumption (e.g., self-censorship), while a high external locus of control would indicate that they feel overwhelmed and unable to manage it on their own, and thus would prefer a higher authority, such as the government, to manage the media environment.

Comment Icon0 When Chinese Internet users were asked what they would prefer to do when they see something untruthful published online, most felt that they would be compelled to share their thoughts about it (60.3%), while the rest would prefer to let others learn on their own (39.7%). The next question related to their physical environment They were asked what they would do if a significant event were to happen in their neighborhood. A majority again felt compelled to share news about it with friends and relatives (60.3%), while the rest preferred to let others read about it on their own in the mainstream news media (39.7%). Those who preferred to share the news were then asked how they would go about doing it.

Figure 35: How Chinese Internet users prefer to share their news

Comment Icon0 As seen in Figure 35, the majority preferred to share their news via instant messengers such as QQ (68.4%), followed by face-to-face (60.5%), SMS (55.3%), telephone (50%), personal blogs (39.5%), email (36.8%) and BBS / discussion forum (34.2%).

Comment Icon0 Since China’s Internet service is known to be filtered to prevent access to specific webpages, Chinese Internet users indicated that most of them would ignore blocked webpages and simply traverse to another website (52.4%), while the rest would seek alternative ways to access information on those blocked webpages (47.6%). Unlike other questions related to locus of control, their level of experience with circumvention technology limited their response. Of those who sought alternative means of access, they were then asked how they typically retrieved blocked information.

Figure 36: How Chinese Internet users retrieve censored online information

Comment Icon0 As seen in Figure 36, most of them used anonymous proxies (36.7%), followed by the use of TOR or VPN access (26.7%), cached or copied information on other webpages (16.7%), and email requests to overseas contacts (13.3%). The other means stated by the respondents included the use of the UltraReach browser software, which was developed by one of the anti-censorship organizations funded by the IBB (International Broadcasting Bureau).

Comment Icon0 To get a sense of how Chinese Internet users felt about online censorship, they were asked about who they would prefer to be responsible for regulating Internet use. While some stated that such responsibility should fall under the Chinese government (22.6%), more than three-quarter of respondents agreed that self-censorship was the better alternative (77.4%). Respondents were then asked to specify the genres of content they preferred to be regulated.

Figure 37: Types of content Chinese Internet users prefer to be regulated

Comment Icon0 As seen in Figure 37, Chinese Internet users assigned the highest level of regulation to pornographic content (78.9%), followed by malicious rumours (70.8%) which was understood to be a key element in “Renrou/Human Flesh search engines” (Xu & Shaoting, 2008). Violent content was also a regulation priority (69%), followed by junk mail or email spam (61.8%), online advertising, especially misleading ones (57.6%), and online gaming, likely for fear of online addiction (45.5%). Interestingly, while chatting was least considered for regulation (30.1%), many apparently weighed in on political content for such regulation (43.8%).

Comment Icon0 A reason why malicious rumours ranked highly in the need for regulation was likely due to how they had led to the occurrence of ‘human flesh’ search engines. This phenomenon consisted of Internet mobs pooling together to locate particular persons of interest, often revealing all kinds of personal information about a target as a perceived wrong-doer in society. Guo Liang noted that during the five years of surveying Internet use in China, “media reports about negative aspects of the Internet have increased both in scope and number”. There have been numerous reports linking the Internet to unfortunate events, many of which may be considered high in human interest, and likely cases of privacy invasion since they include names, addresses and photos (Fallows, 2008a). As the Chinese media report on such cases, they also perpetuate this extreme form of social action. To help ascertain if Chinese citizens actually prefer the Internet to be regulated, or the more accessible news media to be regulated, a series of questions related to news credibility were asked for this study.

Comment Icon0 As a testimony of government regulation of online media, Chinese youths do perceive Internet media to be the fastest and most comprehensive way to share and receive breaking news, yet it falls short by having bias tendency as well as being fairly invasive on personal life. That said, a major difference of opinion exists as most youths do not place politics with as much regulatory priority as what the government currently enforces.

Chapter 9.1.4 – Locus of Control


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