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Digital Media and Press Freedom in the Era of Big Tech: A case study on Chi...

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The Brown Institute for Media Innovation

Pulitzer Hall - 2950 Broadway

New York, NY 10027

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Digital Media and Press Freedom in the Era of Big Tech: A case study on China


On Friday, February 1st the Tow Center for Digital Journalism and the Committee to Protect Journalists will host a half-day symposium to discuss the best research and guides related to digital media and press freedom in China in the era of big tech. The symposium will consist of three panel discussions on the state of digital media in China, the role of tech platforms, and China's authoritarian influence on free expression around the globe, respectively. Tow Center Researchers Mia Shuang Li and Emilie Xie will present preliminary research results on the WeChat-based “self media” phenomenon and the black box news personalization algorithms of China’s leading news aggregators.


Panel 1: New challenges to press freedom in the age of digital media

The age of digital media has created both opportunities and problems for journalism. New technology in digital publishing and advertising allows journalists to instantly reach audiences, but it also allows governments to deploy innovative censorship tactics. This panel will examine how going digital is changing the media landscape in China, and what it means to protect of press freedom.

Moderated by: Mia Shuang Li, Tow Center

Panelists:

Joanna Chiu, Veteran China correspondent

Qiao Mu, China Media Analyst

Rebecca Davis, China Bureau Chief, Variety Magazine


Panel 2: Practices and power of tech platforms

As news consumption becomes increasingly digital and mobile, big tech firms and platforms have increasingly consolidated power over what news stories consumers read and talk about. In China, the political and economic power of big tech platforms such as Tencent adds a fascinating dimension to the traditional state-censor-versus-newsroom dynamic. How much power over the news do China's big tech firms have, and what are their practices around it? Can they serve the state censors, their shareholders, and users at the same time? Are they friend or foe when it comes to press protection?

Moderated by: Emilie Xie, Columbia Journalism School

Panelists:

Jonathan Hassid, Iowa State University

Jason Ng, Citizen Lab

Rongbin Ha, University of Georgia

Angela Wu, New York University


Panel 3: China's authoritarian influence on free expression around the globe

From Chairman Xi’s talk on “cyber sovereignty” in Brazil to China’s “digital silk road” initiative, China's authoritarian influence on online expression is expanding beyond its borders. As it does, the global tech sector is becoming increasingly connected, with Chinese investment entering Silicon Valley and global tech firms looking to data-mine in China. This panel aims to shed light on potential exports of China’s model of Internet control, and ensuing consequences for global online expression and press freedom.

Moderated by Emily Bell, Tow Center

Panelists:

Howard French, Columbia University

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Foreign Policy

Matthew Schrader, The Alliance for Securing Democracy at German Marshall Fund


Agenda

1:30pm: Opening remarks

1:35pm: Panel 1- New challenges to press freedom in the age of digital media

2:45pm: Panel 2- Practices and power of tech platforms

3:45pm: Break

4:00pm: Panel 3- China's authoritarian influence on free expression around the globe

5:00pm: Reception


This event is free and open to the public, though registration is required. Please direct any questions to towcenter@columbia.edu.

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The Brown Institute for Media Innovation

Pulitzer Hall - 2950 Broadway

New York, NY 10027

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