Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Digital Asia Links: Liu Xiabo censorship, Gangnam Style's world domination and more

This month's links include censorship regarding Liu Xiabo's death on weibo and WeChat, internet use among the North Korean elite and Thailand floating the idea of registration for Facebook users.

Photo: Ann Hermes / Getty Images
Photo: Ann Hermes / Getty Images
Published 28 Jul 2017   Follow @DrSarahLogan

  • Toronto’s Citizen Lab tested censorship surrounding Nobel Prize Winner Liu Xiabo’s death earlier this month. Testing WeChat and weibo, the Lab found, not surprisingly, that censorship on the issue was tight across both platforms. The testing also, for the first time, found evidence of image filtering in one-to-one chat, in addition to image filtering in group chats and WeChat Moments.
  • Apple is set to open its first data centre in China that will comply with the country’s new cybersecurity laws and manage data localisation and security issues. Last year the company was ordered to shut down its Chinese iTunes and iBooks arm, just seven months after opening.
  • China’s State Council has announced a scheme designed to develop a $US150 billion Artificial Intelligence industry by 2030. However, one of Tencent’s chief researchers points out that the announcement is strong on technical and practical aspects but not ‘investment, education, talent, ethics and institution building’ and - tellingly - that data liberalisation is the ‘problem of AI in China’ (ch translation).
  • On 10 July, mobile users in Tianshan District of the restive Xinjiang autonomous region received a notification from the district government to install a surveillance application on their phones.  Locals elsewhere in Xinjiang have already been instructed  to hand in their phones for ‘checking’ by 1 August.
  • The Indonesian government this month partially blocked encrypted messaging app Telegram, arguing it had been used to organise terrorist attacks. Telegram has announced it will work with the Indonesian government to block the public channels in question but, as one analyst points out, the Indonesian government has since demanded that the company open a local office, echoing its treatment of Google last year and suggesting the issue has just as much to do with tax as terrorism.  
  • Indonesia’s strict data management laws are affecting some fintech startups. The laws require companies to have local data centres, and a regulation issued in 2016 sets further requirements for data protection and means, for example, that authorized government officials need to be informed of data transfers out of Indonesia.
  • The Thai government has reportedly floated the registration of Facebook users. This follows an altercation between Facebook and the Thai junta in May 2016, when the company was forced to remove posts showing the new King in a crop top.
  • Friends after all? A new report analyses the internet habits of the North Korean elite, showing that the limited number of North Koreans with access to the Internet use it much like the rest of us, including social media, video streaming and reading the (Western) news.   
  • Cambodia has arrested 13 Taiwanese nationals as part of a huge Chinese crackdown on online scams run outside its borders targeting Chinese citizens, while Thai police have arrested 25 Taiwanese nationals on similar charges. In 2016 Cambodia raised diplomatic tensions by deporting 21 Taiwanese nationals arrested under similar circumstances to the PRC, despite Taiwan’s vehement protests--as did Kenya. The latest arrests look set to raise diplomatic hackles once again.
  • Japanese messaging app Line is reaching new heights. Analysis released this month predicts over half of all Japanese internet users will access the service monthly by 2018.
  • Ever wondered who to blame for Gangnam Style’s word domination? A new study shows the video began its viral journey in the Philippines, which facilitated its spread because of the country’s extensive English-speaking diaspora.



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