Sensitive Topics Fill Cyberspace: How to Regulate and Control Emotional Public Opinion on the Internet

May 25, 2005

The following is a partial translation by CECC staff of an article entitled "Sensitive Topics Fill Cyberspace: How to Regulate and Control Emotional Public Opinion on the Internet," which appeared in the October 2004 edition of the People's Liberation Army's "Military Journalist" magazine, and subsequently republished on the People's Daily Web site. This article was part of a state-sponsored propaganda campaign to justify deploying Party and government personnel to manipulate public opinion.


As expression has become more open, more and more "sensitive topics" have begun to appear--true crime, inside the scenes, secrets, and some are extremely sensational. This kind of news on the Internet has lead to a kind of emotional unburdening of the popular will, and emotional public opinion is filling the air.

If the guidance of irrational emotional public opinion is only perfunctory, or if mistakes in guidance occur, it is possible that it will lead to social instability.

Because the masses are increasingly unsatisfied with their reality, and lack an appropriate outlet for relief, a large amount of emotional public opinion accumulates in societies dissemination spaces, and the technological characteristics of openness and virtual reality-ness of the Internet provide emotional public opinion with an advantageous dissemination space, and therefore it seems that a large amount of emotional public opinion is disseminated on the Internet. This kind of expression that includes opinions that are emotional is by its very nature not very correct, and added to the fact that its scope of influence is large and its speed of dissemination is fast, it represents a definite threat to social stability.

The voice of the virtual world and the public opinion on the Internet can only bear fruit when they reach the world of reality if they have undergone rational filtering.

Looking at the current situation of some of the more influential forums in our country, training forum "opinion leaders," and utilizing these "opinion leaders" to guide online public opinion, has already become a common practice among some of the large forums. These "opinion leaders" that have judgment and have a representative manner of speaking are often displayed by forum moderators in eye-catching fonts and colors to increase emphasis, and are placed in prominent places on the Web page in order to strengthen mainstream discussion and isolate non-mainstream discussion.

Although in theory, people have the freedom to chose what information they receive via the Internet, in fact, when faced with this kind of vast "sea of information," choice becomes the choice of too many choices, and freedom becomes the non-freedom of too much freedom, Internet information then attains an empty state of surplus and overflow. Therefore, the utility of Internet inspectors in choosing information and guiding public opinion is very great.

Internet inspectors should be information providers, information guiders, and information regulators and supervisors, put up relevant subject or topics, attract those individual end-users to participate in the public discussion arena, utilize the free and animated Internet exchanges, timely news reports, and furthermore add exhaustive factual background materials, carry out conforming the disparate discussion arenas, in the process of exchanges guide the masses' opinion, facilitate the formation of correct public opinion, and foster the audience's loyalty and good opinion of the Web site.

The Internet is a double-edged sword. It has the ability to teach people and it has the ability to kill people. It is necessary to increase the guidance of it, but the essential issue is still that Internet public opinion reflects society.