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Propaganda and Censorship: Adapting to the Modern Age

A Chinese PLA Propaganda Poster.

A Chinese PLA Propaganda Poster. Courtesy of James Vaughan/flickr

This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review (HIR) on 28 April 2016.

The role of propaganda and censorship is not as obvious as it may seem. From the infamous propaganda arm of North Korean government to the state-run media organizations in China and Russia, it is clear that the mechanisms and effectiveness of propaganda and censorship vary widely. During the height of propaganda in the twentieth century, authoritarian governments were able to craft strong, singular national narratives by propagating political messages in popular media while censoring those that conflicted with the government’s line of thought. With the advent of the digital age, Russia and China have been forced to develop their propaganda strategy to combat the newfound power of the average internet user, who can seek and share information at the instant click of a mouse. While the basics of propagandistic strategy have persisted, fundamental changes have occurred as a response to the paradigm shift in information sharing and seeking. » More

New Media and Latin American Violent Movements

Social Media Mess, courtesy Kexino/flickr

This article was originally published July 2 2014 by E-International Relations

The Commons Lab, an initiative of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars recently published a provocative article entitled “ New Terrorism and New Media.” In his discussion, Professor Gabriel Weimann of Haifa University in Israel focuses on insurgent movements such as Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. His work explains how terrorist movements utilize social media outlets, such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, to expand the reach of their ideology and attract new converts.

According to Weimann, social media is different than traditional internet resources because, with social media, terrorists are able to directly target individual followers. Thus, social media has increased the number of “lone wolf terrorists,” namely individuals who commit terrorist acts without being connected to a particular terrorist organization. With the rise of social media, Weimann argues that the war on terror has become increasingly “vital, dynamic, and ferocious,” and creates a new front in the struggle for international security.

However, the use of social media and new technology is not limited to violent groups in the Greater Middle East. Thus, the authors of this article would like to expand upon Weimann’s research by discussing how criminal groups in Latin America have also been successful at utilizing new media resources. » More

Latin America’s Wired Activists Take on Crime

2011 Peace march in Mexico City. Image: Wikipedia.

Buenos Aires, 5 November 2013 (IRIN) – In Latin America, where violent crime rates are six times higher than in any other region and where most residents have reported distrust in the state’s ability to fight crime, a number of communities have taken to social media to boost security, say analysts.

“Violent crime in Latin America undermines the social fabric of communities [and poses] a major human security threat to populations who live in slum areas,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a US-based non-profit security policy group.

Violent crime has soared in the past decade with murder rates for Latin and Central America four times the global average in 2011, at 29 per 100,000 people, according to a 2013 UN Development Programme (UNDP) report.

In parallel, internet access in Latin America has multiplied thirteenfold in the past decade, providing communities with an alternative way to report crimes in near anonymity, share information on violence hotspots, mobilize community policing and organize protests calling for greater security. » More

China’s “Surgical” Human Rights Crackdown

Internet Cafe in China. Image by Kai hendry/Flickr.

Two weeks ago China and the US conducted their annual human rights dialogue amid what the US reaffirmed afterward has been a renewed crackdown on policy activists under the Xi administration, the latest victims being anti-corruption campaigner and legal scholar, Xu Zhiyong, detention of whom began two weeks before the dialogue, and his petitioning defender, journalist Chen Min, whose detention began only the day after the dialog concluded. Last week an unprecedented one-minute “jailbreak” video went viral of Xu making a one-minute appeal from inside the jail to rally the grand jury of world public opinion against laying charges, shows breakdown inside the security apparatus, and can still be viewed inside China. China has responded that human rights aren’t being reduced.

The targets of these actions appear increasingly to be “mobilizers” and their vocal associates and families, while the underlying threat is the mushroomed population of microbloggers against whom an editorial in the People’s Daily made this accusation the week of the dialog uncoincidentally: “Every day microbloggers and their mentors in the same cause pass rumors, fabricate negative news about society”. These suggest that the Party hardliners are out to shut down China’s true online/wireless innovation/craze, the free cellphone Facebook-cum-Twitter-cum-videophone-cum-voicemail service known as Weixin (WeChat) 微信 (literally “micro message”) which uncannily, but with different tonal emphasis, is represented by another and well-known pair of Chinese characters 维新 meaning “reform,” “modernization.” » More

Catalonia: Independence from Spain to Do What?

Pro-independence rally on Via Laietana on September 11, 2012. Photo: Lohen11/Wikimedia Commons

On November 25th Catalonians headed to the polls for a snap regional election. The polls were staged just two months after a massive pro-independence rally took place in Barcelona. Voter turnout peaked at almost 70%, the highest in 30 years, and the four political parties committed to holding a referendum on self-determination (CiU-ERC-ICV-CUP) got more than twice as many seats as those defending the status quo (PSC-PP-C). Crucially, both of Catalonia’s major parties – the governing center-right CiU and socialist PSC – suffered severe setbacks.

Accordingly, it appears that Catalonia is now set to hold a referendum on its ties to the rest of Spain, and that it does not trust its major political parties to steer the process. » More

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