Web celebri­ties should fol­low bot­tom line

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - DONG HAIBO The author is an in­for­ma­tion an­a­lyst with www. peo­ple. com. cn. The Chi­nese ver­sion of this ar­ti­cle was pub­lished on the Peo­ple’s Daily on Mon­day.

The rapid de­vel­op­ment of the In­ter­net has greatly opened up the space for pub­lic dis­course in Chi­nese so­ci­ety. But the emer­gence of the dy­namic on­line opin­ion plat­form has been ac­com­pa­nied by grow­ing con­cerns over what kind of on­line opin­ion en­vi­ron­ment Chi­nese so­ci­ety needs and how it can cap­i­tal­ize on the div­i­dends aris­ing from the high-tech era.

A re­cent fo­rum on In­ter­net celebri­ties’ so­cial re­spon­si­bil­i­ties has of­fered some in­sights into the way peo­ple ex­press their views on­line. The bot­tom line for on­line speech, which was agreed among a group of In­ter­net celebri­ties, was de­scribed as strict ad­her­ence to the law, the so­cial­ist sys­tem, moral­ity and au­then­tic­ity of in­for­ma­tion, as well as the pro­tec­tion of national in­ter­ests, the pub­lic’s le­gal rights and in­ter­ests and so­cial or­der.

With the pro­lif­er­a­tion of grass­roots re­port­ing in China, peo­ple from dif­fer­ent sec­tors of so­ci­ety have amassed on­line fol­low­ings and emerged as a new group of opin­ion lead­ers. Th­ese on­line celebri­ties play an im­por­tant role in shap­ing pub­lic views. For in­stance, many In­ter­net celebri­ties called for “ra­tio­nal pa­tri­o­tism” af­ter the out­break of vi­o­lent protests against Ja­pan’s il­le­gal “pur­chase” of China’s Diaoyu Is­lands last year.

How­ever, on­line opin­ion lead­ers can also have a neg­a­tive in­flu­ence if they re­sort to in­sults, or spread ru­mors and false in­for­ma­tion. All too of­ten, on­line dis­cus­sions about high­pro­file pub­lic events or some com­plex prob­lems dur­ing the coun­try’s pe­riod of tran­si­tion have turned into ex­changes of bit­ter words or per­sonal at­tacks. Some on­line ar­gu­ments have al­ready turned into phys­i­cal con­fronta­tions off­line, and the pop­u­lar mi­cro-blog­ger and writer Li Cheng­peng even had a knife tossed at him dur­ing an au­to­graph ses­sion in Bei­jing ear­lier this year. While the fail­ure of some In­ter­net celebri­ties to ver­ify on­line in­for­ma­tion also en­cour­ages the spread of ru­mors.

A ma­ture pub­lic space should al­low dif­fer­ent views to be ex­pressed within the lim­its of the law. On­line opin­ion lead­ers have gained an in­creas­ingly pow­er­ful voice by in­flu­enc­ing their fol­low­ers and mis­use of this power will have dam­ag­ing con­se­quences. In­ter­net celebri­ties should use their in­flu­ence re­spon­si­bly.

Con­fronta­tion and con­flict do not solve prob­lems. Only through ne­go­ti­a­tion and dia­logue and by es­tab­lish­ing a rea­son­able com­mu­ni­ca­tion and su­per­vi­sion sys­tem can so­ci­ety bet­ter chan­nel peo­ple’s con­cerns and pay due at­ten­tion to their weal and woe.

Com­plaints and ques­tion­ing with­out ra­tio­nal dis­cus­sion and ex­ces­sive out­bursts of so­cial dis­con­tent will only lead to Web rage. The ex­pres­sion of such emo­tions by In­ter­net users will only fuel the spread of neg­a­tive feel­ings and un­der­mine so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

Ad­her­ing to the bot­tom line will help counter the un­de­sir­able de­vel­op­ment of the on­line opin­ion space that has oc­curred in re­cent years. The bot­tom line for on­line speech is a code of con­duct that all In­ter­net users should re­spect and hold on to. Dif­fer­ent opin­ion hold­ers, es­pe­cially those on­line celebri­ties with a pow­er­ful voice, need to en­hance their aware­ness of the bot­tom line to fa­cil­i­tate the es­tab­lish­ment of a ma­ture opin­ion mech­a­nism that can ef­fec­tively chan­nel peo­ple’s con­cerns and give full play to the su­per­vi­sory func­tion of pub­lic dis­course.

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