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Does the democratic West ‘learn’ from the authoritarian East? Juxtaposing German and Chinese Internet censorship and filter bubbles

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This article compares Internet censorship and filter bubbles in Germany and China both theoretically and how to investigate it methodologically. It challenges the dichotomy between the free West and the regulated East. Drawing on definitions, the key actors of both phenomena and specific juristic measures, the author then develops a visual intersecting circle model for comparative purposes. Key findings at this stage suggest the following: both phenomena contain pre-selected Internet content through digital means, algorithms serve as technical infrastructure to shape such pre-selections and finally, users face awareness issues when attempting to grasp the extent of these phenomena. Methodological recommendations follow to research this novel approach of juxtaposition. The findings suggest that German Internet developments are a possible democracy threat and are shifting towards analogue developments known from the authoritarian Chinese state. This implies that German Internet corporations adhere to new state regulations, and yet fulfilling these for the sake of their own monetary benefits. Thus, notions of public opinion formation are diluted to biased, regulated and business-driven information processes in Germany and censored, marginalized community informative actions in China.

Keywords: China; Germany; Internet censorship; authoritarianism; filter bubbles; public opinion formation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Leipzig

Publication date: April 1, 2019

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  • The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture is the leading academic peer-reviewed journal for scholars, teachers and students from around the world interested in the popular culture of East Asia. In recent decades, East Asian popular culture has attracted increasing attention within academia and beyond. The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture is one manifestation of this, serving as an important forum for academic debate over popular cultural phenomena throughout the region and their social and political ramifications. The journal's scope embraces all aspects of popular culture in East Asia as well as the cultural interplay between East Asia and the wider world. Encompassing work on genres from film to music, art to translation and fashion to tourism; the journal offers a forum where multidisciplinary work can come together in new and exciting ways. We welcome original scholarship related to all aspects of East Asian popular culture from creation to dissemination and beyond. We also offer a space for shorter reviews or reports of cultural events and activities, and for reviews of scholarship in any language related to East Asian popular culture.
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