Alternative Media in China

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A6329 Regional Communication Issues
Prof.Kalinga Seneviratne

Photo Rumors of Emergencies on Weibo in China

Ying Lingshu
G1201014L
October 31, 2012

Wee Kim Wee School of Information and Communication

Nanyang Techonological University, Singapore

Abstract

This article examines the image rumors in emergent situation on Weibo in China.Both two emergent cases selected are related to government departments, in such special relationship, and under the environment of strict media censorship in China, those related reports would be blocked by the authorities, furthermore, information get more ambiguously without specific report of emergencies. Hence, netizens tend to believe rumors than usual especially when it comes to image rumor. Since the nature of emergency and rumors, the image rumors spreading can be faster and stronger than usual during an emergent situation.

Keywords: Rumor, Social media, Emergencies, Weibo, China, Photos.

Rumor spreading on social media

Rumours are an important form of social communications, and their spreading play a significant role in a variety of human affairs. The spread of rumours can shape the public opinion in a country (Galam, 2002). Rumors have both becomes inevitable parts of our social life, which have enormous effects on our daily activities. Rumor can have both positive and negative effects. Although it can help to create social bounds and public relations among people, yet they can destroy the true image of others or mislead people ( Nejati, Asadian and Zehtabi,2010). In the ancient times, without cutting edge technologies, the spreading of rumor almost rely on communication within people or mass media. The influence and speed of rumors can be limited. However, in the new media era, social media like Facebook or Twitter can facilitate rumor spreading faster and lead to unimaginable consequences. According to Wikipedia, “Weibo is a Chinese Microblogging website which is similar to a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, it is one of the most popular sites in China, in use by well over 30% of Internet users, with a similar market penetration that Twitter has established in the U.S.”. As we know that both Facebook and Twitter has been blocked by Chinese authority for a few years, weibo, to a certain extent, has become an irreplaceable alternative in china’s social media for wide ranged netizens to exchange their ideas and be better informed actively. Sina's  microblog business was modeled after Twitter, the American social networking and microblog site which was founded in San Francisco in 2006. Its popularity even rise the attention of Chinese government. According to DCCI (Data Center of China Internet), by 2012, there are almost 327 million netizens are using Weibo. As can conclude that based on such huge population, the impact of Weibo is enormous, besides, it offers a great platform for rumor spreading. since the popularity of weibo, there are internet rumors spread on it every day. And a certain number of people are vulnerable by such fake information on the internet especially on social media. On social media like weibo, netizens are so easy to be act as a rumor spreader. Interesting is the fact that when those false information is shared by the users, people don’t think they did something wrong .So it is easy for us to become the spreaders of rumors unconsciously. If the information turns out to be fictitious, most of the rumor spreaders thought that only the original rumormonger should be responsible for it. The rumormongers consider the prosperous social media as a good platform to spread rumor which means such means of spreading is more speedy, extensive and profound. According to the Jiefang Daily (2011, December), the amount of rumor on Weibo in 2011 is more than 8 times than the amount in 2010. The top three kinds of rumor are disasters, public celebrities and...
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