Speaking up or staying silent? Examining the influences of censorship and behavioral contagion on opinion (non-) expression in China

Yuner Zhu, King Wa Fu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Despite being designed to go unnoticed, censorship apparatus would occasionally manifest itself under various circumstances. In this study, we formulate four layers of censorship exposure where individual users can come across censorship. We investigate how different layers of censorship exposure influence users’ opinion expressions. Results show that people tend to stay silent when the censorship in the global environment is intensive, whereas they tend to “rebel” against censorship by voicing their opinions, when they experience censorship themselves or witness censorship occurring to their friends or reference persons. We also find community acts as a critical buffer against the influences of censorship. Outspoken crowd could shield individuals from the fear of punishment and outspoken friends could mitigate individuals’ anger against censorship. In either case, individuals can be liberated from their overconcern with censorship and be empowered to act for themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3634-3655
Number of pages22
JournalNew Media and Society
Volume23
Issue number12
Early online date19 Sep 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

User-Defined Keywords

  • Censorship
  • chilling effects
  • Chinese social media
  • opinion expression

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