Muzzled by the Communist Party in China, social media and communication platforms are cut off outside influences by the Great Firewall. At the same time, Chinese companies are buying up and financially infiltrating all Western social media and platforms, whether Snapchat, Discord, Reddit, or Zoom. Here’s why they do it.
The appearance of an internal free market
Strick monitoring access to information is crucial to keep the 1.4 billion inhabitants under control. Most Western social media and sites are banned and replaced by local versions.
Replace search engines such as Google with a Baidu. Ban eBay to create the equivalent: Alibaba. No Facebook Messenger, Line app, or WhatsApp, but a WeChat produced by Tencent.
Don’t be swayed by half-witted journalists who celebrate WeChat’s success as “extraordinary.” When the country has 1.4 billion people, and some want to emulate the West’s technologies, they have little to no choice in the applications to download.
The only apparent competition concerns local entrepreneurs whose fortunes are subject to the communist regime’s goodwill. So Jack Ma, creator of Alibaba, kindly gave up his place in 2018 because he is an honorable member of the Party.
It’s better than dying on a tourist visit to France like billionaire Wang Jian, CEO of the HNA group in 2018.
It’s also more comfortable than being imprisoned for a sex scandal, as was Richard Liu, the billionaire founder of JD.com in 2018.
It was also the year that the Party celebrated the best entrepreneurs, all of whom are Party members.
To keep the masses happy, the appearance of choice allows people to speak up their minds, and dissident blogs have been able to develop. Once groups were formed, it was easier to stop all of them at once.
As Evgeny Morozov pointed out in The Net Delusion, the Internet is not a tool for “democratization,” but an aid to the continuous surveillance exercised by authoritarian regimes.
Despite all this, the Great Firewall of China has some cracks. And to control populations in the country, nothing beats subversion of external social media and communication platforms.
It is just in case some have access to information not controlled by the Party.
Infiltration of Western social media networks
Just as Tencent buys all the successful video game companies, multiple Chinese companies aim to take over Western social media and communication platforms.
In 2015, Tencent began by taking over a social media linked to video games, a sector in which the company has invested massively. She takes partial possession of Discord for $ 150 million.
The application available since 2015 allows you to chat by text, audio, or video. The platform had more than 250 million users in 2019.
In 2017, Tencent took 12% of Snapchat, a social photo and video sharing platform created in 2011. In 2020, the network has 229 million users, and 4 billion Snaps are sent every day.
In 2019, Reddit benefit 300 million dollars from China. Founded in 2005, Reddit is the world’s largest forum, including over 150,000 sub-forums, and receives more than 330 million active users per month.
In addition to these purchases by Tencent, other companies are developing software for the United States market. Thus, Zoom is a teleconferencing services company founded in 2012 by Eric Yuan, a Chinese immigrant.
For its part, TikTok is the social media for sharing successful videos among adolescents. The western version is decoupled from the Chinese version Douyin.
They don’t want to mix pieces of information for the internal and external audience because the type of control and persuasion is different.
Both of these applications have questionable data collection practices and security concerns.
In 2019, the FTC fined TikTok for collecting information from children under the age of 13. The US Navy banned the app in December 2019. More recently, Apple announced that TikTok is spying on iPhone users.
It is, therefore, not surprising that India has banned the application and several other Chinese products during military tensions with its Chinese neighbor.
Finally, in the United States, some members of the Democratic Party were delighted to see that the teenagers of TikTok organized to reserve seats at the Donald Trump political meeting to prevent the Republicans from attending.
Given that most of TikTok’s videos are music and comedy clips for teenagers, one wonders why the application’s algorithm would have suddenly valued more political videos.
Zoom, on the other hand, is banned by Taiwan, NASA, the German Foreign Ministry, and other government institutions.
Most of Zoom’s teams are based in China, but the data is also transiting through China, as a Citizen Lab report points out.
Given the increased use of Zoom during containment, experts point out the potential problems of political and industrial espionage.
By having total control internally and partial control externally, the Party can not only monitor users’ behavior and thoughts but above all, it can gradually impose the Social Credit it has been experimenting with for several years.
But what is Social Credit?
Related article : How China bought Western video games
Social Credit or total control on your life
In the “Nosedive” episode of the Black Mirror series, the characters live in a world where everything can be ranked through a social media that assigns each one a score.
Depending on the rating, you are entitled to the luxuries and first-class services or relegated to remain a second-class citizen.
The episode is a whimsical transposition of the Social Credit system imposed in China by the Communist Party and spread through social media.
The project developed as early as 2009, and they implemented the Social Credit system in various regions before achieving it nationwide.
Officially, the aim is to restore trust between citizens, particularly during commercial transactions. One might think that the score aims to reward civic behavior.
There would not be a trust problem if, during the communist takeover, part of the population had not massacred the other half.
During the “Cultural Revolution” phase, the Party transformed children and young adults into militants who had to get rid of the four old things (knowledge, traditions, cultures, behaviors).
In this context of surveillance within the family itself, the funniest thing is this article by Forbes, trying to present Social Credit as positive.
Currently, most Chinese citizens have a favorable view of the commercial social credit score systems in place; a survey of Chinese citizens shows 80 percent of respondents either somewhat or strongly approve of social credit systems.article by Bernard Marr
It’s not as if respondents had a choice in their answers. When you have a gun to your head, you tend to do whatever the abuser asks.
Opaque rules and no time limit
The problem with communist regimes is that they don’t follow a clear set of rights but opaque rules so that everyone can be guilty of ThoughtCrime at any time.
Do you surf on forbidden sites? Do you dare to criticize Social Credit? You don’t keep your dog on a leash when you walk him? Your score just went down.
And not only will you be penalized, but everyone around you is too. It is not at all meant to divide families and push members to enforce Party rules.
In some areas, the names of people with a bad score are made visible by an application warning you of their presence within 500 meters.
In others, an automatic phone message will warn you when you get in touch with a person with a bad score.
Social Credit also affects potential promotions: 290,000 employees can get a better position because of their score.
According to those who have a bad score, the situation is “worse than prison” because the sentence has no time limit.
Finally, Social Credit also affects your love life as it is used in online dating sites like Baihe to stigmatize persona non grata.
As in all fascist regimes, everything belongs to the state. Especially your thoughts, once deprived of any form of material possession. That’s why China wants to control social media.
Related article : How China bought Hollywood
Monopoly behind the appearance of choice
How to implement Social Credit? Well, it is simple: you just have to make everything digital. You have to make sure that conversations are online, purchases, and monetary transactions too.
To get tighter control of citizens’ lives via social media, China wants to ban cash gradually.
And as the Communist Party is still lucky, a deadly virus has appeared forcing the entire government to take extreme measures to “protect the population.”
Widespread containment is forcing and accelerating the digitization of all forms of human interaction.
All the banks in the world rushed to China, and they saw it as an excellent opportunity to offer and implement their services in Chinese social media in 2019.
Now you’re saying that all this has nothing to do with what’s happening in our western democracies.
It’s not as if the people guilty of
ThoughtCrime Hate Speech are regularly excluded or reported by ssocial media.
Once again, the criteria are at best unclear, at worst, politically motivated.
It is not as if in the US and Europe some people are denied the right to open a bank account because their political views or spouse’s ones are not in line.
There have never been any attempts to break the monopoly of Facebook, Twitter, and others, broken by the fact that banking organizations refuse their services. No, never.
When all services go digital, it becomes impossible to access the money you have or potentially pay your electricity bills.
It is probably the time to reconsider analog and less “traceable” technologies.
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