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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines

Policing the net

Beijing is estimated to pay over a quarter of a million social media operatives, and the government posts up to half a billion self-serving messages annually. It also runs a “Great Firewall” of censorship and restrictions, and here Yuan Ren explains what it feels like to be caught on the wrong side of the fence. Below, we highlight other government efforts—for good, or more often for ill—to get a grip on the web.

I reply to my friend: “What are you talking about?” We are on WeChat, China’s most popular social media platform, a kind of Facebook- Whats-App hybrid. A message I had received referred to “the above photo.” There was no photo.

My friend responds with a screenshot from his phone—and there it is, the missing picture. It had seemingly been plucked out, somewhere en route. But there was no error message. This is the new age of Chinese online censorship: automated and sneaky.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s February 2018 issue: John Naughton, James Ball, Yuan Ren, Hannah Jane Parkinson and Houman Barekat outline the ways in which our lives are controlled by big tech giants. Naughton argues that Facebook and Google have created a new “surveillance capitalism” in which they battle to grow user engagement of their products and monetise our lives for their own gain as they do so. The cover package also explores how “bots,” fake social media accounts, influenced the US presidential vote and the Brexit referendum as well as the effects of removing net neutrality in the US. Elsewhere in the issue: Samira Shackle asks what happens to ordinary civilians affected by Islamic State as they attempt to move back to their homes and rebuild their lives; Shahidha Bari asks whether we can continue to appreciate the work of actors, filmmakers and writers who have been disgraced; and Christine Ockrent profiles Michel Barnier.