CeDEMAsia2016: Panel, Day 2

 

Marko Skoric, Tetsuro Kobayashi, Muneo Kaigo: Social Media and Citizen Engagement in Asia: A Comparative Study of Five Societies

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The presenters are part of a research team that conducts an international study to learn about political disagreement and what people do about it in social media. The study shall support the understanding of patterns of engagement. The international study analyses 6 countries: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, hence the study is currently titled “Citizen Engagement in Confucian Asia.”

Social media expand social networks and they go beyond face-to-face meetings; hence many thought the social media would diversify the social network of individuals. However, the opposite seems to be the case. People that actively express themselves on social media are likely to unfriend people who have different opinions. This becomes especially true during political campaigns and when users are politically active. Some people try to persuade others with different political opinions and when they fail after some time, they unfriend these people. Social media feeds look more like face-to-face conversations nowadays than 5 years ago as similar opinions are shown in the threads.

Koreans that live in Japan for long time are called Zainichi and there are about 350,000 of them. Hate speech and racism in Japan focuses on Koreans and Chinese and there are hate groups against Zainichi that got especially stronger after the World Cup in 2002 and through other events. The Matome Website is a place for hate speech and people that consume their news in such an ecosystem find themselves in a vicious circle. Firstly, they are racists or have racist tendencies, which is why they go to websites like Matome. If they consume the biased news from such a website they become even more racist. The more they use these media the more racist they become.

This corresponds to the findings that certain media attract people with certain mind-sets. In Japan, NHK is a public broadcaster and people that watch these news find racism distasteful, like users of Youtube in Japan also generally do. On the other hand, Sankei Shimbun is a media that is consumed by more racists. Matome is among the worst mass websites concerning racist users, and looking at the actual users of Matome website, one realises that they are equally spread among the different educational backgrounds.

The study is still ongoing and further results will be published in the near future.

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