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Information operations directed at Hong Kong (blog.twitter.com)
1116 points by whatok 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 440 comments



Good on Twitter and Facebook.

On top of blocking thousands of websites (which includes Facebook, Google, Twitter) China's government employs thousands of government employees just to purge even the most mild criticism of the CCP on Weibo [1]. They also employ tens of thousands to export their propaganda overseas, using sock puppet accounts to push their worldview[2]. And their worldview is fiercely anti-democratic.

The Internet cannot remain free if we allow governments to use their power to control narratives and suppress the truth. US-based Social media companies are not ideal judges, but at least they publish their methodology and allow public criticism of their platforms.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sina_Weibo#Censorship [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50_Cent_Party


Even here on Hacker News, a week or so ago I saw someone being chided for “breaking the HN guidelines” by calling out a sock puppet. When I looked at the comment history of the account doing the chiding, all of its comments were on China related articles, taking a pro-China view.


There are two site guidelines that apply to this. First, it's not ok to use HN primarily for political, ideological, or national battle. If a commenter is posting as you describe, we ask them to stop. Example: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20727426.

But by no means does it follow that a commenter behaving that way must be a sockpuppet, astroturfer, shill, spy, foreign agent, etc. That's where the second guideline comes in: the one that asks users not to insinuate these things in HN threads, but rather to email us at hn@ycombinator.com so we can look for actual evidence. Accusing others without evidence is a serious breach of the rules, and a personal attack. When people do that, we ask them to stop as well. Example, from the same thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20727420.

Does that mean that abuse doesn't exist, or that we don't take it seriously? No—it does and we do. But the way we take it seriously is by looking for evidence. So far, such evidence as we've found on HN nearly always indicates that the commenter is legit—they just hold a view that some other commenters find so wrong that they can't believe it's sincere. (Corporate astroturfing is a different can of worms, btw, and I'm not talking about that here.)

Here's the most remarkable case we've seen of a mass influx of new accounts angrily defending "pro-China" views: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20236444. Most users who are inclined to perceive astroturfing would have declared this an obvious case of manipulation. The only reason we didn't get an inundation of such accusations is that the wave of new accounts only showed up a day or two later, after most readers had stopped looking at the thread. But even this case, when we followed up on the evidence, turned out to be something quite different. I emailed every one of those commenters who had left an email address in their profile, and many responded. It turned out that the study under discussion had gone viral in China, someone had posted a link to the HN thread to the Chinese Quora-equivalent, and the new accounts were people who had found their way to HN from there and created accounts to speak their minds. I also posted in the thread asking the new accounts to explain how they'd come to HN, and several replied with the same story. Does that prove they weren't communist agents? No, nothing would prove that. But the null hypothesis—that people hold their views sincerely—was amply supported by the evidence. This was an extreme case, but over and over, the story we see is like that. Ornate machinations add zero explanatory power, but invoking them poisons the community; therefore we ask users not to invoke them.

Most people hold the views that they do because of their background. HN is a large, international community, orders of magnitude larger than your or my circle of acquaintances. What are the odds that in a group this large, quite a few people will have different backgrounds than you or I, and thus hold different views? The odds are basically 1. That means you're going to hear some "pro-China" views here, because there are users whose background connects them to China—by birthplace, family, education, work history, you name it—in ways that HN's Western audience mostly doesn't share.

Because this is happening, we have to decide what kind of community HN should be. Should we ban accounts, or allow them to be persecuted, for "pro-X" views where X is outside, say, a standard deviation of what most people here take for granted? Or do we want to be a pluralistic community that is strong enough to hold space for such views, and such people, even when most of us disagree? It's unclear which way HN is going to go about this—sctb and I can't control HN, only try to persuade—but I know that I'm only interested in participating in the latter. The other way leads to a community in which it's ok to smear others (such as a nation or ethnicity) and have mob attacks on innocent individuals: see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19403358 for one example that turned out ok; unfortunately there have been others which didn't, and users have been run out of town. I don't believe anyone here wants those things, but the tragedy of the commons will take us there if we don't all consciously resist it.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


DanG, there is a book in here somewhere, or at least a substantial collection of essays, on a coherent theory of moderated speech and debate.


> Should we ban accounts, or allow them to be persecuted, for "pro-X" views where X is outside, say, a standard deviation of what most people here take for granted?

When those views are formed under the pressure and oppression of an increasingly influential authoritarian regime? Yes, you should. Otherwise there won't be much of a community left to protect. There is little reason to believe you can have it both ways as it isn't a level playing field. Ambivalence is one of the costs of democracy and it can't measure up to the adjusted views formed under a watchful eye.

This is why authoritarianism is on the rise all over the world. Because as people become afraid of the effects of global conflicts, economics, and politics all the establishment can offer are arguments of apathy and equivalence. Leaving the hardliners the only ones left standing with a message resembling anything close to common values.

I do believe you are writing in good faith, but I'm not sure you understand the situation. Facing undue pressure to confirm to certain views because of your background and thereby not being free to form your own _is_ what is damaging. That is what oppression is. Authoritarianism is there to achieve this result. The idea that these views are remotely equivalent is contradicted by all those facing the consequence of not wanting to conform to them and suggesting otherwise is a disservice to all parties.


Late to the party but...

I think another way of saying it is, any views coming from a country that doesn’t allow even a modicum of free speech should be discounted.

I think there’s two reasons: trust and reciprocity.

Trust - the fact that information in China is so heavily censored and moderated means that opinions are necessarily censored and moderated too. It’s as if somebody admitted that their single source of all political information was Alex Jones - it wouldn’t be unreasonable to treat their opinions with a high degree of suspicion.

Reciprocity - I don’t think China should be able to have its cake and eat it. ie. if your neighbor thinks you are too dirty to eat at their house, then they surely wouldn’t be welcome at yours whenever they please?


I appreciate this comment for actually saying what no one else is willing to: that we should ban accounts that disagree with you on certain topics. That's the subtext of so many arguments people make, and it's refreshing to hear it explicitly. Well, you didn't quite go all the way. But you did go clarifyingly further, and we barely ever get that.

The answer is that we don't moderate HN that way because we want it to be a pluralistic site. What I hear you saying is that a pluralistic site is impossible ("there won't be much of a community left to protect"). I don't think that's correct. I think HN, for all its problems, is such a site, at least for the time being. I also think that HN's pluralism is mostly what people dislike about it, even though no one ever puts it that way—not because they're dishonest, but because that's not how it feels.

In practice, a large pluralistic internet forum feels like you are being invaded and besieged by hostile forces. (By "you" I mean all of us). Whatever segment of the spectrum here is most awful, most offensive to your values and experiences, that segment makes so strong an impression that it swells up in importance beyond everything else put together and becomes the image of the entire forum in your imagination. But if you think about it, that is just what one would expect from a genuine pluralism, where the spectrum is much wider than one is used to in daily life and on the siloed, sharded internet.

That is the next hurdle, I think, that we need to overcome as a community. We need to grow in awareness that the presence of opposing views is mostly a function of the size and diversity of the forum, i.e. that there are many people here whose lived experience is very different from our own, who also have a need to speak and be heard. We need to grow in ability to hear their experience also—their story also—without snapping shut. By the way, that is also the answer to the objection people sometimes make, that we must be saying that all opinions and expressions are equally valid. That's not so. Not all expressions are valid, but as far as I can tell, all experiences are. The solution is for people to share more of their lived experience and not dress it up so much in secondary opinions and expressions, especially ones that demean or deny the experience of others.

That's how the container here needs to develop. I hope that if it gets stronger in that way, HN will be able to remain pluralistic even if there are external attempts to manipulate it. The healthy way to defeat those pathogens is via a stronger immune system. If the community can't do that, it will end up killing itself, by breeding its own pathogens—chief among which is users accusing fellow community members of being astroturfers, spies, or foreign invaders, not because they have any evidence for saying so, but because what those community members have to say is outside their window of tolerance, so they are unable to meet it calmly and must reach for an explanation of disingenuousness instead.


I contend it’s unavoidable that all sites such as HN will tend towards Slashdot over time. The fundamental reason for this is that any appeal to respect the commons and allow others free use of it, will only fall on the ears of the respectful users of said commons. Other users will exploit the freedoms afforded by the commons to indirectly deny others said freedoms or to “poison” the commons against reasonable users. At some point a tipping point occurs and the majority of the reasonable users leave.


That's the default for sure. But consider that (a) HN started as an experiment in avoiding that outcome (see https://news.ycombinator.com/newswelcome.html and https://news.ycombinator.com/hackernews.html), and (b) it has managed to avoid it (mas o menos) for 12 years now. Doom may be inevitable (https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20stave&sort=byDate&da...), but 12 is a large number of internet years. I think it's safe to say that we've avoided at least the cruder versions of that phenomenon. And we've learned a lot in the process, so all is not yet lost.

The best way to not succumb to pathogens is for the community culture to build up strength to handle them. The real enemy is not the pathogens, but our own weak immunity to them. The strength we need most right now is for HN users to resist the temptation to call others astroturfers or spies simply because they hold opposing views—and to explain to fellow users that the rules here ask us not to do that, no matter how wrong the opposing view may be or feel.


Thank you for treating your authority and influence with diligence and respect. It's perhaps unsatisfactory and laborious but the world is better for it. Thank you.


I think what is missing in most the the China and HN discussions is that HN is not blocked by the great firewall, so it is much easier for regular people living in China to participate. They will naturally have more pro-China views. Just like residents of every country will have more positive views of that country. And when that country is criticized they will be even more defensive and reflectively pro what is criticized.

All this without having to be paid to do so, although that is possible as well.


> HN is not blocked by the great firewall

Your information is 16 days out of date: https://en.greatfire.org/news.ycombinator.com There's now a partial block where it can be accessed from some locations and not from others.

That's not necessarily going to prevent "pro-China" views from appearing. People who circumvent the Great Firewall e.g. to follow celebrities on Instagram may not like the censorship, but could be on the same page with the government on other issues.


Semi-tangential, but many Chinese tech companies just have a perma-VPN company wide and use GSuite and Google search by default. And Hacker News is a tech-leading forum (though it's not that big of a thing in China AFAIK).


Actually,I work for one of the most well known Chinese Internet companies. Our company’s VPN is blocked by HN


The VPN blocks HN, not the other way round


Did you mean that HN isn't accessible through VPN? i.e. it only tunnels domains selectively?


HN doesn't block VPNs. What are you observing that leads you to say that?


Don't you ban IP addresses in some cases? https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20IP%20banned&sort=byD... suggests you do. That could result in effectively banning a VPN.


We do, but not usually heavily used ones, and the VPNs we're aware of use lots of IPs.


Always been curious -- why is this allowed by the Chinese government? If people feel comfortable using such a VPN, they must have some reasonable belief that the Chinese government doesn't care that much about it, right?


As far as I can tell, that is only a small minority of the commenters with such views. Far more are people in Western countries who have personal, familial, educational, or work ties to China, or who had experiences in China that gave them a different perspective.

In a way, though, we're talking about the same thing, because most of this follows from human loyalties—to family, tribe, country, etc.—that all of us have. It's true that some commenters are ideologically motivated, but even that is a second-order version of the same thing, since ideological commitment itself comes out of such loyalties.


Just to share some perspective as a native Chinese living in US for anyone interested:

- Most of immigrants from China after 2000 holds pro-China views, and there's strong tendency to become more pro-China after living in US for some time, after having full exposure to US media and getting to know how things really work in US.

- It's probably common to see HN accounts that comment mostly on China related issues. I don't have stats, but this is very likely, because when immigrants like us read HN comments upon these issues, it's usually as irritating as lots of you reading far-right pro Trump comments.

- When people question if an account is genuine just because they have pro-China voice, it's just confirming how hypocritical western "freedom of press" is, and pushing us towards more pro-China.

- HN is still fairly unpopular among Chinese tech immigrants, otherwise you'd be seeing a lot more sincere pro-China comments here.


When people question if an account is genuine just because they have pro-China voice, it's just confirming how hypocritical western "freedom of press" is, and pushing us towards more pro-China

Firstly, do you mean "freedom of speech"? Few people here are the press.

Secondly, can you elaborate on this view? I don't doubt that the situation is as you describe, but if true this shows a misunderstanding of the freedom of speech. It's not hypocritical(in general) to criticize speech one doesn't support, or to accuse the speaker of having ulterior motives, while supporting the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech doesn't give anyone the right to speak without being criticized.


It's not just the comments but those "free independent media" as well. Having freedom of speech doesn't mean having no bias. None of the US media I've seen doesnt have strong confirmation bias towards China. And even for US domestic issues, it's still appalling to see how media could be so polarized. Even when they report truth, they'd select facts that support their views while simply ignore things that's against them. I had to say that's a big disillusionment


You've switched topics. My question was about calling people hypocrites because they support the freedom of speech while criticizing speech you align with. I wonder if you see now why that doesn't make sense and why it implies a misunderstanding of what "freedom of speech" means.

It does not mean everyone likes everyone else's opinions. Just that we don't think governments should control what people say.


Did I ever say "freedom of speech"? English is after all my second language, and I don't expect I could articulate like a native speaker.

Just to make it clear, the most irritating part is that people's opions are clearly shaped by what they read from media, which you'd expect to be more neutral as "freedom of press" is "so great" but it's just not the case.

In China, at least people are generally aware of media censorship, and would take a grain of salt in what they read, but with independent press, people are generally less critical about their reports unless it directly contradictory with to what they know for a fact. As a result you got so many people commenting like they know more truth, even when the "truth" is so absurd. When they are presented a different side of the story, ok, that must be "government propaganda", and whoever supporting them need to be banned?


I understand your original point now. Thanks for clarifying.

One aspect of American media that you are ignoring is the fact that it's often biased, often politically biased... but it is not controlled by the government. And it is not monolithic.

The biased western media has brought down presidents and many other powerful, connected people (most recently Jeffrey Epstein). They revealed the secret, illegal actions of the NSA. Etc. All of these journalists were biased in some way or another... but they were all biased in different ways. A lot of the truth eventually gets out.

Now you could make the argument that all of Western media is biased against the PRC, but that's going to be a very tough argument to make. Who are they all loyal to, to cause them to uniformly be biased against the PRC? We know it's not loyalty to the United States because of the usa-hostile reporting I reference above. It takes ultra conspiratorial thinking to arrive at the conclusion that all of Western media is biased against the PRC.

So you seem to be pulling a bait-and-switch. You seem to want to conclude <Western media is uniformly biased against the Chinese government>... But you argument is the very weak <no Western media entity is free from bias>. The conclusion doesn't follow.

I hope I haven't misconstrued your argument. Cheers!


What is it about exposure to the US that will make someone more pro the Chinese government?


Plenty of reasons. To begin with, seeing how biased the Western media are when they report anything related to China is both appalling and disappointing. The impression of what average American has about Chinese government, Chinese people and their relation is light years away from reality.

Moreover, people immigrating to US from China tends to be more pro-democracy than average Chinese, but we got disillusioned after seeing how things worked out in American politics.

The life here is quite unsatisfactory for lots of Chinese, as there are many aspects of China making it a better place to live in compared to US. Can't speak for other people but frankly if I could have got a job with similar pay and similar workload in China, I wouldn't even hesitate for a second that I'd move back.


Out of curiosity, when you're talking about "Western media" do you mean only US-based outlets, or do the European outlets (excluding the English rags) have the same effect?


For me I was reading the Economists (through my uncle who works in publishing) in China since high school. My American foreign language teacher told me it’s too conservative. FWIW, it almost has the same effect


we got disillusioned after seeing how things worked out in American politics.

What parts of American politics disillusion you? And why do you think the USA should necessarily be the example? Do the criticisms you have of the USA also apply to other democracies, like the Democratic socialist countries in Europe? If not, why do you think they would constitute an effective argument against Democracy? "The USA has problems" is not an argument against Democracy.


Speaking from my own experience, it is probably because it is the US. If I were more exposed to say France or Germany instead, which at least to me seem to be less hypocritical, especially on international politics, I think I'd feel weaker nudging to be more pro Chinese government.


Agree, I was in Singapore for a couple of years before moving here and I never felt becoming more pro China there


This is actually a relatively common thing. When people immigrate to a place that generally treats them like a foreign entity, they are more likely to strongly identify as that entity.


In general actually people who have access to western medias are educated enough to think differently, not to take the media's view wholly. I am sure many of them would just defend China out of pride (apply to people living in China), for others, mostly oversea Chinese, they have seen the world and concludes that is the right view to hold, and they don't have to follow western media's (CNN, BBC) view on things. I personally would not be so much pro-China if the news is not as biased as it is to be honest.


I'd like to see an honest explanation of the kind of bias you're talking about, on the part of Western media. I'm open to its existence, but I also know it's an easy accusation to lob without evidence.


I wasn't going to comment because I don't have time to do research for this. There was a website collected all edited photos by CNN a few years ago, I just don't have time to do this kind of analysis. You can basically say I 'feel' them are biased because a few photos I saw on BBC. Another typical thing happen is that the Chinese edition would word differently than the English one. Just yesterday, NYT published an article about a Chinese student run college press. Apparently the interview was done in February, and they just decide to publish it now after these students published content against violent protest in HK (I am all for the peaceful part, and against violence and British flag /US flag waving in protests though) The Chinese version of the article in title says this students website only manufacture fake stories, the English title is slightly better. And when they speak about the editor, they make association with negative words (such as North Korea, because he lives in a Chinese city of North). It is typical propaganda techniques. I have to say, journalism is dead. We don't have time to verify, no patience to wait for the truth coming out, I have chosen not to read news. We are wasting too much time on politics I think. Unfortunately on Hacker News, there are still politics, mostly about China.


I don't see it as quite that simple. I think the difference is that dissent is, to varying extent, suppressed in China. Which can lead to a homogeneity of view that looks suspicious, even when it may not be. I suspect many Chinese who do have sympathy for events in HK would be circumspect expressing that. Just as was the case in former East Germany or Soviet Russia, wearing your views on your sleeve comes with consequences. What I privately think and what I write online may be two very different species, or maybe I avoid certain subjects entirely online.

Many Americans, Brits, HKers and other nationalities usually find people are supportive of some aspects of their country but openly criticise other aspects, sometimes vocally, sometimes by demonstrations. Unless you step over into hate speech and incitement that comes without consequence. Even America, which often seems from the outside to be one of the more blindly patriotic nations, has a good and healthy proportion who will criticise. Then there's us cynical Brit's who, at times, seem to have a majority criticising most things about Britain and reserve pride and flags for very special occasions. :)


It's fair to say even HN is not blocked by GFW, majority chinese are not comfortable reading/writing english to participate discussion here, or on FB, twitter. Also economy wise if using VPN or otherwise to get onto the internet having a cost/inconvenience, it's not wise to spend it on political discussion, youtube or netflix might be just better options.


Most Chinese posters to HN (pro or otherwise) either have access to a VPN or are overseas anyways. Not all people posting from within China are particularly pro China or even Chinese (maybe half?).


FWIW, I think if there’s any community that can meaningfully ensure discussion from all sides can occur without irrevocably degrading the level of quality / emphasis on seeking truth within that discourse, it’s HN.

I would be careful though, as the culture of thoughtful inquiry that HN has managed to cultivate in these past few years, could easily end up being destroyed and end up going the way of Reddit.

The only reason it hasn’t, at least in my opinion, is because of the largely technical/engineering focused user base that HN caters to. There’s only a limited number of us in the world though, and if moderation from your side doesn’t keep up, it’s pretty much inevitable that the site will get overrun as it becomes more and more mainstream.


> I would be careful though

The #1 way for us all to be careful is to follow the guideline against insinuating astroturfing or bad faith in comments, and to encourage other community members to follow it. I hope the users who have been reading my posts about this (see https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20astroturf&sort=byDat... for plenty more) will start doing more such encouragement. Because you're right: we can't keep up. Only the community can.


Have you considered hiring more people to work specifically on data analytics, fraud detection, etc. for HN?

This is a pretty valuable place, and I would hate to see it fall because of a lack of resources/support. I’m not sure how Paul Graham or YC in general views it, but surely there’s enough inherent value in the existence of something like Hacker News even from a purely business standpoint to support having more funds allocated or it?


Your comment seems to imply that posting a link to a thread elsewhere in an attempt to attract sympathetic commenters is a legitimate strategy to "open a debate". On Wikipedia, such commenters are sometimes derisively referred to as meatpuppets; although they may not technically be sockpuppets, the value and effect does not differ significantly, either practically, or, in my view, ethically. Even HN agrees with this in at least one context: it is agreed among almost all members, and, as far as I know, moderators, both past and present, that posting a link to a thread with the purpose of attracting users to take some binary action on the thread (usually upvoting, but sometimes downvoting or flagging) is bad and wrong.

Why should mass commenting be different?

I think an analogy might be drawn to corporate representatives. If they want to advertise and market their products, that may be acceptable, if they are otherwise contributing to the community, outside of their narrow product. If they only post links to their website, they will be banned with great haste. Similarly, if pro-China users want to legitimately contribute to the discussion, they should be free to do so as legitimate members, participating in all elements of the site, not only via pro-China comments.


I think there's a big difference between something like a corporate campaign or voting ring where a bunch of comments show up to boost a product, and a case like the one I described where many people showed up organically to express an alternate point of view. For one thing, in the second case there is something to learn.

In general, though, you're right that users here should be using the site as intended, and that means not using it primarily for arguing about politics or nation.


Also to note, we've been hearing non-stop about puppet accounts taking over social media for the last few years. As mortal users on this and other sites, most of us don't have the tools or information available to us to reliably distinguish between puppet accounts and someone who genuinely holds stupid views. Some suspicion along these lines is to be expected.


I agree, but the suspicion is not cost-free. When people accuse each other recklessly of being astroturfers, shills, spies, or otherwise fakes, they do real damage to this community. If that becomes the culture here—which frankly it feels on the cusp of—it could kill the community. Therefore we need users to exercise some self-control and not simply vent their suspicions incontinently into the threads out of frustration at how wrong they feel someone is. If after that they still feel there's cause for suspicion, they are welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com so we can look for actual evidence.


Another way to look at it, I get a lower trust score to people holding pro-China view because such disinformation campaign is rampant. It is in a way a social punishment that disincentivize such underhanded technique. Does your good faith measure in a way undermine such natural counter mechanism.


Would be great if down vote is explained. As you probably know for sure by now [0] they do put massive resource into disinformation. Contrast with the "west" their PR statements don't have to be sound nor creditable, as long as it assembles a sentence that supports the party's stance they'll say it. Because a authoritarian government don't have to earn the trust of the people.

Now you have people truly believing those blatant lies, taking the same stance as the party and start spreading it, does it matter whether they truly believe it? Instead of politics, we're talking about basic human values here.

I do think letting disinformation pollute the stance itself naturally is the proper fix. Without that, do true believer of rather good character have he incentive to voice their concern, as one of the driving force to shape decision makers in the party? It's fixing the root cause, not the symptom. Such that disinformation, as a latest major threat to democracy works contrary to its intent thus stopped.

[0]: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/19/technology/hong-kong-prot...


I agree that there is nothing wrong with people sincerely stating their pro-Chinese government views, even if they focus only on China-related topics in a way that makes them look like a sock puppet.

But that’s the moral hazard of being on the side of an entity that makes extensive use of astro-turfing. Its sincere supporters are more likely to be perceived as sock puppets.

There’s another discussion to be had about whether one should discount the opinions of those who live under a state of pervasive censorship, but that’s a lot more nuanced since we all have our own filter bubbles.


also, I would be stunned if China decided to target HN with professional propoganda. It's just not that large or well known.

If, say, eight out of ten people haven't heard of hn then why even bother? just put more resources into spamming twitter or whatsapp or whatever they use in china


My current account was not created to post political dumps, but the atmosphere is changed upside down so much, it's really hard to just walk around it while still keep a peace of mind.

Can I ask for an account deletion and removal of all posted content? Thanks!


> Can I ask for an account deletion and removal of all posted content? Thanks!

I asked for that once and was refused with the reasoning:

> I’m sorry to disappoint, but Hacker News doesn’t delete entire accounts because that would gut the threads it participated in. We do sometimes remove specific comments if users are worried they’ll get in trouble, and we’re also working on the ability to rename accounts. Would either of those help?

I can't say I agree with it.


If you are European, this seems fundamentally incompatible with the requirements of the GDPR, unless they have a better basis for processing than consent (which I doubt for a site like Hacker News).


There is a better basis, one that covers even sensitive data under Article 9. Specifically, the processing is lawful when "processing relates to personal data which are manifestly made public by the data subject" [1], as is the case here.

[1] https://gdpr-info.eu/art-9-gdpr/


Thank you for your info.

Well, then they can remove comments that doesn't receive any reply. Do they?

If the least thing they could do is renaming, then please rename my account to `chairmanmao`, so it won't contain my name anymore. I will ditch this account after everything is done.


I think when you are getting a large amount of commentary from a totalitarian state, your default response should be suspicion not to just allow it. Each of the totalitarian states in our world today have proven they have massive information operations ongoing to deceive people in democracies. They have found this as a weakness in free states. You should be responsible and delete all such accounts by default.


Of course we would ban accounts that are part of "massive information operations to deceive people". The problem is that users routinely accuse other users of such nefariousness without evidence, and that unfortunately is also a form of abuse. Someone simply disagreeing with me is not evidence that they are an "information operation" or "commentary from a totalitarian state". In most cases it simply indicates that opinion is divided in a large community.

When concerns about abuse come up, we have to look for evidence. Otherwise the policy becomes "ban anybody who disagrees with me", which is mob rule. Nobody would advocate that in principle, but in practice I'm afraid that's the direction that emotions tend to point in, and they're much stronger and swifter than most people seem to realize.


I agree with you when it comes to topics like Trump. Obviously, there are many people on both sides of that issue.

When it comes to a topic like should protesters in Hong Kong be allowed to continue and make requests for freedom, generally the only opponents are going to be state sponsored. I think you need to draw your moral lines not just at preventing someone who supports outright genocide, but probably at those supporting the extinguishing of others freedom.


> When it comes to a topic like should protesters in Hong Kong be allowed to continue and make requests for freedom, generally the only opponents are going to be state sponsored.

I think dang answered this eloquently and you're merely prompting him to repeat himself: "Someone simply disagreeing with me is not evidence that they are an "information operation" or "commentary from a totalitarian state"


One more thing, freedom around the world is under assault from massive state sponsored attacks that have been well documented by a number of news organizations and now social platforms. Lies and fake stories have been discovered by these totalitarian regimes to be far more effective in undermining democracy and freedom than guns and bullets.

HN is an immensely popular community and most likely is facing similar assaults. If you have not found state sponsored attacks, it may be because you haven't looked hard enough yet. Dang, I know you are a talented programmer and with full access to the database, I think you could build tools to unearth this sort of behavior.


> If you have not found state sponsored attacks, it may be because you haven't looked hard enough yet.

> I think you could build tools to unearth this sort of behavior.

Dang has said they already look for this sort of behaviour and ban accounts if discovered. You're implying that nothing is done at all. You're implying that dang hasn't looked at the database and tried to sort this, and that it's an easily solvable problem. If it were, I'm sure dang would have automated it. Twitter and Facebook struggle with this, so the problem is not solved.


Why not open an API and ask for the community here to help? Tons of excellent programmers who would be happy to help.


Your principles seem to be summed up as: so long as someone is speaking their opinion respectfully and in good faith, it matters not what that opinion is; and that the defense of this necessitates a generous presumption of good faith.

We must acknowledge that HN carries a substantial degree of influence, and consider how to responsibly wield that influence. The readers here are a lucractive demographic - generally we are an educated, wealthy, and politically engaged group. As propaganda becomes more sophisticated, it's likely - if not inevitable - that it will target us. It's the responsibility of the moderators of our online spaces to protect us from propaganda, else Hacker News is used as a weapon, to ill or to good - a possibility that you must be aware of.

Distinguishing between propaganda and genuinely held positions is difficult, and approaches impossible as propaganda technology becomes more sophisticated. For this reason, I think it's reasonable to suggest that certain viewpoints are simply not welcome on Hacker News. There are some easy examples: racist or sexist views being one of them. I presume that someone expressing racist viewpoints, no matter how eloquently stated, is not welcome to do so on Hacker News. Then there are more difficult problems, which stem from a complex web of related judgements. To address these, I suggest reflecting on your own moral principles, and considering what ideals are worth protecting in the face of propaganda. In the case of Hong Kong, the ideals at risk here are the right to self governance. And there's little question that the alternative Hong Kong faces would be tragic - China is demonstrably a country with little freedoms afforded to its people and large-scale human rights violations being carried out all the time. The demonstrators in Hong Kong will not be let off easy for the risks they're taking, should they fail.

In short: like it or not, HN is a tool which will be wielded by oppressors, and will likely be an effective tool at that. Identifying oppressors is difficult but identifying the values of oppressors is easier.

Also worth note: HN is inextricably linked to YC, which has financial investments in China. If you don't want to be views as having a pro-China bias, you need to put in extra work to remove the foot from your mouth.


"In the case of Hong Kong, the ideals at risk here are the right to self-governance."

American here using a VPN from China, not an operative. My view after 10 years in China with businesses in China and Hong Kong, is that it is useful to think about Hong Kong similarly to a USA state. It's a state where the people inside can exit into China at will, while all the other people in all the other states in China must get permission to enter Hong Kong. So, its a state where the people living inside have all the benefits of being Chinese, with few of the downsides. But from a bigger picture, Hong Kong is not anymore entitled to complete self-governance apart from China's oversight than California is entitled to act against the US federal government. Very few Americans would support any US State in the Union to exit the Union. And, Chinese nationals do not support it for their own Country's territories.

About your extra thoughts that China is "is demonstrably a country with little freedoms afforded to its people". Every place has its majority and minority viewpoint, and what you are saying here is at best a fringe minority viewpoint in China. On the whole, the Chinese majority does not welcome your pity in regards to their systems. They are amazed at the shitshow they see about USA violence and political machinations. They see marches on Portland Oregon with Antifa on the left and whoever on the far right and think, China has it good, and in many ways, they are correct.

Violent crime as measured in murders per 100K of population in the USA is a magnitude worse than in China, the murder rate is literally 10x worse in the USA. I've walked down dark streets at night all over working class neighborhoods in Guangdong province and never once felt unsafe. At nighttime, there are huge crowds in public squares, sometimes with hundreds of women dancing coordinated to music, and there is no fear. I've done the same in large cities like Shanghai, going where I please at midnight, with no feeling of danger. That's what they value here and it brings a type of freedom that you can't enjoy in the USA.

Chinese do not share the same values as you, and from my view, that's OK.


> It's a state where the people inside can exit into China at will, while all the other people in all the other states in China must get permission to enter Hong Kong.

This is not 100% true. Setting aside the fact that not all permanent residents in Hong Kong are Chinese nationals, there have been many cases where people have been denied entry into mainland China. But this is a minor point compared to the next point you make:

> So, its a state where the people living inside have all the benefits of being Chinese, with few of the downsides.

As a native HKer this sounds very weird. I'm not sure how the previous point leads to this.

Anyways, I know this is how it's portrayed in mainland China, but the current movement is not about creating an independent Hong Kong separated from China. Sadly, most mainland Chinese people have already made up their mind and let their patriotism fuel their hatred towards Hong Kong.


> So, its a state where the people living inside have all the benefits of being Chinese, with few of the downsides.

I also don't agree with that point but probably for different reasons. Hong Kong was simply straddled with a half oligarchic system nominally democratic but in actuality structurally setup to be unconcerned with the livelihood of the middle class.

While the CCP is at least nominally held to be the steward of the common people's wellbeing, most of the functional constituencies in the legco have no 'fiduciary' responsibility towards the average Hong Kong person. Seats like Insurance and Financial Services aren't even voted on by the insurance or fintech workers but by the corresponding corporate monopolies in the unregulated market. These oligarchs also have no interest in any of Tung Chee-hwa's economic reforms that might have helped Hong Kong's workers bridge though China's declining need for Hong Kong as a trade funnel and the present social stagnation and 20% poverty rate. That's 20 times the poverty rate of mainland China.


Another reason for the lack of economic reforms is that many people in Hong Kong have drunk the free market fundamentalism kool-aid for so long that they actually believe it's the reason for Hong Kong's past success. What ended up happening of course is that markets don't have level playing fields anymore.


+100

I've only lived in HK for a short amount of time so this might be unfounded. But I would opine that it's not the people of Hong Kong that have drunk the neoliberal kool-aid but that that's the intent of the colonial political control design.

Like most colonial extraction-based political structures like post-Roldos Ecuador, post-Allende Chile or Colombia today, the oligarchy of local ruling families benefited from the monopolistic political structure, then with their vested interest in the colonial institution and with the elite powers they hold (in monopolies in media and control of functional constituency, for instance), they put the broader public deeper and deeper in the hole while directing the general public discontent towards... less intellectually complex conflicts like mainlanders pissing in the subway.

This is fine while doesn't need to demonstrate economic self-sufficiency when they can simultaneously monopolize China's trade but it would be very self-destructive to think that Hong Kong staying afloat has anything to do with Hong Kong's own industry (at least not since the last wave of Shanghai émigré-bootstrapped textile industries in the 60s) or policies.


>> So, its a state where the people living inside have all the benefits of being Chinese, with few of the downsides. As a native HKer this sounds very weird. I'm not sure how the previous point leads to this. Anyways, I know this is how it's portrayed in mainland China,

Which is where the problem is, even from an American living inside China believes HK is talking all the advantages without any downside. And just like you said this is how it is portrayed in China, and how majority thinks like this.

That was the the view [1] as shown in previous HN article.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20537409


> But from a bigger picture, Hong Kong is not anymore entitled to complete self-governance apart from China's oversight than California is entitled to act against the US federal government.

Except that California has "act[ed] against the US federal government" for years, regarding marijuana. As have several other states.

I do agree, however, that Hong Kong represents a far stranger situation. From a traditional Chinese perspective, it likely appears that Hong Kong was "corrupted" by years of British governance. And I can appreciate how that shows up as British occupation. Just as it did in India etc.


> Violent crime as measured in murders per 100K of population in the USA is a magnitude worse than in China, the murder rate is literally 10x worse in the USA.

Assuming you believe the State statistics that could be true. However, their is plenty of evidence many official numbers are manipulated and this is likely to be one of them.

Which is the issue, even people living in China really have no idea what the Chinese populous thinks about most things. When people fear to speak the truth, what you hear has little to do with what they think. Private comments are frequently at odds with public statements.


[flagged]


> I sought out information about you to judge your biases. I found that you're...

I don't know how, after reading what I wrote above, you could think that it's ok to pull a move like that on HN, but it's not ok. Specifically, checking up on and bringing in someone's personal circumstances, which they didn't choose to mention, in order to get an upper hand in an argument is not ok on HN. Please don't do that again.

I'm glad that you didn't publish the details, which would have been even worse, but that also means that what you wrote there is just an insinuation.


The information is in their profile, just one click away and you don't even have to leave HN.

Don't you think we ought to be vigilant of these biases when discussing the very matter of whether or not these biases are subverting the discussion?


Even if it's one click away, it isn't your prerogative to cross the line and introduce it as ammunition in an argument. That way lies significant degradation of the community, and I'm surprised that you stooped to it here. Please don't.


And what are your biases?

The thing is, it's not relevant to the discussion, either yours or anyone elses, because we're discussing issues, not investigating people or putting them on trial.

A point is a point, no matter who made it. It's up to you if you wish of course, to refute it, but by using argumentative devices, evidence, studies, or explaining how you arrived at your point of view only. Not via character assassination.

As an aside, I feel these accusations merely make some people shut up on here. I've actually loved this thread in general mostly because people have come out of the woodwork and explained why they think this or that, and there have been some really inquisitive questions.


Haha, I'd rather you would have seen me in the Chinese police station last year, absolutely furious and further raising hell in a yelling match with the local Chief of Police after he raised his voice at my Chinese partner. Had a similar experience when my Chinese resident permit was delayed for a dumb reason, causing me to miss my daughter's high school graduation in the USA.

I'm not afraid to say exactly what I think when it needs said, and I've said what I truly think here.


So you're essentially bragging about how you're kind of a big deal and above the local cops? Am I misinterpreting your comment?


Is your perspective that as long as you aren’t personally targeted and can make money, it doesn’t really matter what the government does? You talk a lot about how nice/safe it is for you personally as you enjoy the benefits of living in China as an expat, but at the same time, you do have to realize that your current situation is one of extraordinary privilege and not necessarily representative of the reality for vast swathes of people in China today right?

For example, the things being done to Chinese people by the government in places like Xin Jiang right now. You might not personally be seeing it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

I don’t mean to disparage you or the choices that you’ve made as I’m sure there are many complex reasons for why you’ve ended up where you are currently. I would urge you though, to think more deeply and consider your actions with the perspective that as someone with the privilege and ability to be able to freely leave the country and speak out against the government without being silenced/jailed, you are in a unique position to make an impact that a native Chinese citizen might not necessarily have.

Personally, as an American with parents that originally grew up in China, I know that I have a great amount of privilege in being able to freely talk about these issues that many of my international student peers in college are unable to express for fear of the consequences they might incur. That’s why for me, I feel like my privilege comes with a certain amount of responsibility to speak out. Your status as an expat puts you in a similar level/position to be able to provide a voice for those that otherwise might never be able to freely express themselves.


There is a lot of virtue-signaling going on here, but understanding the state of today's USA education systems, I'll try to parse it.

> Is your perspective that as long as you aren’t personally targeted and can make money, it doesn’t really matter what the government does?

[Bob]: No. My perspective is that of a person who spent their first 32-years in America, who one day about a decade ago during the depths of the economic downturn, decided to try to eat the dogfood of living and operating a bootstrapped business in China so that I could better understand it and the world I live in.

> You talk a lot about how nice/safe it is for you personally as you enjoy the benefits of living in China as an expat, but at the same time, you do have to realize that your current situation is one of extraordinary privilege and not necessarily representative of the reality for vast swathes of people in China today right?

[Bob]: I'm not claiming it is particularly safe for me alone. The feeling is one of an environment of general safety. As in, lack of violent crime. A Country where, on innumerable local blocks across its many cities, there are instances of thousands of people in public squares at night, enjoying things like group song and dance. You don't see that everywhere in the USA. I do realize, there may be many non-Han Chinese communities I'm not exposed to where the freedom to express themselves is not so great.

> Your status as an expat puts you in a similar level/position to be able to provide a voice for those that otherwise might never be able to freely express themselves.

[Bob]: No, unfortunately, my status as an expat doesn't give me any particular right to speak for its citizens, nor impune myself in the business of China's governance of its citizens. I'm here as a guest in China. China reminds me of that every year when I go through the month-long process to renew my resident and work permit. Anyway, guests don't go to someone else's house and tell them how to run it. But, I fully support your own free speech rights to say anything you want about China or the governance of its peoples.

That said, there are plenty of things I don't like about being in China. Being here has led me to change my views on many issues, versus my views from a decade ago. Previously, I was far left in viewpoint for the times. Such as, I held the view America should nationalize the banking system. While that still may have been the right call, overall, after a decade of bureaucracy, I'm no fan of big government.

And now, I'm a much more rabid proponent of American's protecting their free speech and privacy, at all costs. Otherwise, it's a slippery slope to end up with what they've got here in China.


> There is a lot of virtue-signaling going on here, but understanding the state of today's USA education systems, I'll try to parse it.

I’m not sure what you mean exactly by virtue signaling here. Can you highlight what parts of my comment you feel like weren’t genuine?

> My perspective is that of a person who spent their first 32-years in America, who one day about a decade ago during the depths of the economic downturn, decided to try to eat the dogfood of living and operating a bootstrapped business in China so that I could better understand it and the world I live in.

From my original comment, I’d like to reiterate that I’m not trying to attack you as an individual or the path you ended up taking to get where you are today. I realize now after more careful consideration and reading your response, your ability to freely speak on certain aspects might be constrained due to existing attachments to your business and marriage in China. You have every right to make sure that those things you currently have are safe and protected, and if that precludes you from being able to fully express yourself I totally understand.

I’m sure you’re doing the best you can right now with what you have to work with, and I’m not trying to saddle you with obligations to try and reform deeply entrenched systems of governance by yourself. Small consistent steps taken over time can lead to a surprising amount of meaningful impact and change though.

> I do realize, there may be many non-Han Chinese communities I'm not exposed to where the freedom to express themselves is not so great.

I appreciate that you can see that your experience might not necessarily be entirely representative of what it’s like to live in China.

> And now, I'm a much more rabid proponent of American's protecting their free speech and privacy, at all costs. Otherwise, it's a slippery slope to end up with what they've got here in China.

I completely agree with you here. Having to constantly be careful of what you say for fear of being silenced or jailed, is a reality for the vast majority of Chinese citizens. My parents directly experienced the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 back when they were going to college. I know better than most, that I enjoy a great deal of privilege in being able to have the freedoms I do today that my parents didn’t necessarily get to have at the same age. That’s personally why I’m such a strong proponent of voting and political participation for myself and my peers. From my perspective, young people in America are becoming far more politically active, and I think you’ll see the effects of it in the upcoming 2020 elections next year.


> I’m not sure what you mean exactly by virtue signaling here. Can you highlight what parts of my comment you feel like weren’t genuine?

I'm not questioning that your comments were not genuine. But, it can be quite off-putting to lead your logic by explaining to someone you don't even know, how privileged they are, making many assumptions about that person and their reality. You used the word "privilege" four times in four sentences. There are other more rational and thought-provoking ways to structure your logic to engage and convince people of your views. Otherwise, you seem like a very thoughtful person, passionate about standing up for those who may not have a strong voice or representation. Those are very commendable attributes and I wish you the best.


> so long as someone is speaking their opinion respectfully and in good faith, it matters not what that opinion is; and that the defense of this necessitates a generous presumption of good faith

Isn't that the point of a discussion forum such as HN?

> I think it's reasonable to suggest that certain viewpoints are simply not welcome on Hacker News

I disagree that contrary viewpoints "no matter how eloquently stated" should be purged. Let them stand or fall on their merits.


The problem comes to distinguishing genuinely held beliefs from subversive comments designed to manipulate the HN audience. The fact that an idea comes from your peers is a powerful one. The average commenter on HN is not so different from you, after all, if they independently came to a conclusion then it might have some merit. However, if they came to that conclusion because they will be rewarded for expressing it or punished for expressing a dissenting opinion, the value is much less.

Some people make it easier - on many occasions you'll see someone discussing a subject but first disclosing their relationship, such as an ex-Google employee commenting on a Google-critical article. If a Chinese party official came to HN to express their views and disclosed themselves as such, I would welcome them to express their opinion here. What I'm concerned about is commenters with undisclosed affiliations writing manipulative comments which help prop up an oppressive state.


> The problem comes to distinguishing genuinely held beliefs from subversive comments designed to manipulate the HN audience

How do you propose to do that? Clearly one must look for evidence. When evidence shows such abuse, we ban the account. Far more often, though (and I'm understating things when I put it that way), evidence shows the opposite: the user was expressing their genuinely held beliefs. Should others be allowed to denounce them as astroturfers, shills, or spies, based on nothing but how strongly they disagree? On HN the answer is no. That follows from the values of this site, and we have a rule in https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html saying so.


[flagged]


Are you saying that there are reasonable, persuasive arguments in favour of any of those things you describe?


This incredibly rude comment will do nothing to reduce oppression anywhere in the world, but I'm sure it made you feel better to write it, and that's all that matters, right?


> Your principles seem to be summed up as: so long as someone is speaking their opinion respectfully and in good faith, it matters not what that opinion is;

While I'm generally an admirer of dang and sctb, a variation of this is my criticism, as well:

They tend to overemphasize "manners", while being blind to anti-social and trollish behaviour.

It's fine to chide me for blowing off steam, I shouldn't do that. But when it is because "the other guy" has behaved and "discussed" very dishonestly, I don't think he should get a pass.

At least the whole sub-thread should be deleted, but usually my (wrong, but still rather slight) reaction (like "I find your way of responding dishonest" – not even "I find you dishonest", mind you) is deleted and the dreck that I was subjected to remains.

Because he did not use the words "asshole" or "dishonest" and rather cleverly expressed the same in a "clean" way.

It just incentivises commenters to get more sneaky, back-handed and dog-whistly. And that is already destroying this community, I feel.


They tend to overemphasize "manners", while being blind to anti-social and trollish behaviour.

It just incentivises commenters to get more sneaky, back-handed and dog-whistly

I can't express how surprised I am (in a good way) to see this finally addressed and vocalized, because I myself have struggled with a way of putting it to words, and wishing to see others communicating it publicly.

Among women and people of color this site has a VERY unfavorable reputation for how our opinions and thoughts are moderated rather strongly because of the frustration we express with dog-whistle arguments that are delicately delivered with kid gloves, while the harbingers of opinions and principles that dehumanize, otherwise, minimize, de-legitimize and/or otherwise ostracize our lived experiences as women and minorities in tech are left alone and allowed to promulgate throughout the rest of the community unmolested.

Thank you both to the two previous commenters for giving my frustrations with this moderation style a voice.


When you say "moderated" I assume you're talking about the moderators of this site, who are me and sctb. I don't agree with you at all that this is how we moderate HN. In fact, what you describe is something that we both try to be careful not to do. If you're going to accuse us of something so awful, you should supply links to cases where you think we did this. That way we can learn from our mistakes if you're right, and readers can see for themselves if you're not.


Yes, your assumption is correct, but I'm not particularly interested in how much you agree or disagree because I don't have much hope that this will change, and your mere disagreement alone isn't going to make me pull an about face on the frustrations I feel about topics people of my social-persuasion and the others I elucidated on and pretend that those frustrations don't have merit--not in the face of my six years of participation in this community.

And further, frankly:

If you're going to accuse us of something so awful, you should supply links to cases where you think we did this.

No, I don't think I will because believe it or not (which you probably wont, but again: don't much care), you and I have interacted on this very topic before via a different account, you and other individuals have interacted on this topic before. I've watched those interactions happen.

This isn't the first time HN has been called out on this Dan, and it's not the first time you've responded to people levying them, so I'm not entirely convinced you need help finding such examples.

If you want "cases", I'm pretty sure you know the correct hashtag on twitter to go looking for because I and many others catalogue these events quite actively and quite publicly.

But I'm not holding your hand finding them.

Be well.

Edit:

I'd be remiss not mentioning this: Just because I'm calling out the HN moderation tactics does not mean I'm laying down accusations on the HN moderators as individuals or what your individual beliefs on this topic are. I-like the two commenters above me have done-am pointing out what I feel to be a glaring blind spot in the moderation styles as experienced by a member of a specific social group. A group I would also feel remiss not mentioning is not represented in the moderation ranks. Take this however you will, feel about it however you want, consider my peace on the matter spoken.


I wouldn't summarize what I said that way at all.


Having reviewed your comment several times, I still feel that my representation of it is a good-faith interpretation of what you said. Yours has much more depth and nuance, justifying that perspective and elaborating on how you go about accomplishing it, but I think my summary is an accurate portrayal of your core principles. Can you clarify in what way it's not?


I didn't say anything like "so long as someone is speaking their opinion respectfully and in good faith, it matters not what that opinion is". I try to be cautious about not making grand generalizations like that, or even thinking them. They tend to have grand and troublesome consequences.

What I wrote was narrowly scoped and is mostly an empirical claim: in the majority of cases when users invoke astroturfing/shillage/spying against others in arguments, there is no evidence to support the accusation and usually evidence to refute it. Because this comes up so frequently, it seems there's some sort of bias (probably a universal one, because I don't think we're wired so differently) that causes users to reach for this mud and throw it at other users, even though they have no basis for it other than that person having an opposing view—which is to say, no basis for it at all.

Since there's usually no evidence and yet these accusations are so common and so damaging, the site guidelines ask users not to post them in the threads. At the same time, real abuses exist, so concerned users are invited to email hn@ycombinator.com with links so we can look for evidence.

That was the gist of my comment. The rest was an attempt to plead for tolerance by offering an explanation of how HN ends up with so many posts that can seem disingenuous: it follows from the size and diversity of the community. Humans are not wired for anything that big, and HN is an intimate-seeming place that doesn't feel as large or diverse as it really is, so when views show up that are more than an arm's length away from what one is comfortable with, it activates the circuitry for perceiving enemies and invaders.

If HN is to thrive in accordance with its value of intellectual curiosity, we all need to work on managing that circuitry in ourselves, and not simply jump to where the limbic system would take us. That's really what the call for evidence is getting at. It requires a person to stop, interrupt the mechanical reaction, invoke the slower and more reflective circuits, and then look more closely at what might really be happening. If we could learn to do that as a community, 99% of the accusations of astroturfing, shilling, and spying against other users would vanish. That would make HN a better place, and would also help clarify which cases really do need investigating and taking care of.


Your comment presupposes all propaganda is negative, underhanded, corrupting; it is not. Propaganda is any propagation of doctrines, theories, or causes. For example, HN is a propaganda machine for start-up companies, people hoping to get rich quick, bleeding edge technologies, privacy advocates, the never-ending addiction to banal tech companies and their meaningless products, etc. Other things are propaganda too, like stories about gender equality, climate science, and "considered harmful is considered harmful". You can't try to convince people to act or think a certain way without the propaganda to do it. Propaganda is, by definition, genuinely held positions; just not always your positions. The concept of propaganda is amoral, even if its subject matter is often highly moral.

Based on your examples, what you're really concerned about is morality and rules. What are the moral values of HN, and what rules should be imposed to enforce them? What morals are ok, and what aren't, by which people?

> Identifying oppressors is difficult but identifying the values of oppressors is easier.

Well, let's examine that. On the one hand, you probably disagree with the Chinese Communist Party using this site to try to gain sympathy for its doctrine. On the other hand, you might think it's OK for millennial Americans (who for whatever reason have culturally decided that capitalism sucks, and that some form of ism is the only alternative, if perhaps half-jokingly) to share articles with a similar message. They both may preach communism, or denounce capitalism. Which is OK, and why?

Basically, you want to know where the red line is. And that's the problem with moderation: there is no red line. There's a whole lot of blurred colors. You start with a very sensible, good, popular moral position like "no racism or sexism", and then you end up fighting weird angry splinter groups who have decent arguments about what it means to be racist or sexist; maybe you would be to them, or maybe they are to you, but neither of you believe you yourselves are. (Try to explain to the average nerdy fan of The Big Bang Theory that it's probably the most toxically misogynistic show on television, and you might find a heated argument; but is TBBT banned from HN?)

The only easy solution is to make a site which is literally dedicated to the morality of a single person - an autocracy. The rules are whatever that person says they are. But since some people don't like that idea (!) what you end up with is a benevolent oligarchy. A few people run things and try to be nice to the users, but basically it's those few people whose morals and values become the de facto rules. Those rules are intentionally fluid and based on interpretation and guidelines, to encourage as many users to use the site as possible, yet provide enough of a LART to keep Eternal September at bay.

The end result is that there aren't any definitive morals running the ship, by design. Go look - there is no explicit rule against sexism or racism. That would be too easy to argue. The vagaries of human morality are too loose, so you can't just eliminate what seems simple. You can only plumb the depths, interpret what feels bad, and chip away at it.


>Well, let's examine that. On the one hand, you probably disagree with the Chinese Communist Party using this site to try to gain sympathy for its doctrine. On the other hand, you might think it's OK for millennial Americans (who for whatever reason have culturally decided that capitalism sucks, and that some form of ism is the only alternative, if perhaps half-jokingly) to share articles with a similar message. They both may preach communism, or denounce capitalism. Which is OK, and why?

No, I think that debating ideologies is fine, and even healthy. I have no love for capitalism and no hatred for communism. But that's not the only thing China represents: communism does not imply the brutality China lays upon its people.

>The only easy solution is to make a site which is literally dedicated to the morality of a single person - an autocracy. The rules are whatever that person says they are. But since some people don't like that idea (!) what you end up with is a benevolent oligarchy. A few people run things and try to be nice to the users, but basically it's those few people whose morals and values become the de facto rules. Those rules are intentionally fluid and based on interpretation and guidelines, to encourage as many users to use the site as possible, yet provide enough of a LART to keep Eternal September at bay.

I'm not opposed to HN taking such an approach (in fact, I reckon I'm in favor of it), but the mods should be bolder in drawing moral lines (blurred though they may be). They already do this regardless - so they should do it with confidence in their own moral compass. And assuming they do so, then we can use their action (or inaction) as a lens to evaluate our moderators with and so decide whether or not we wish to cast our lot with HN.


Sincerely, I got an admonition and flag from you for calling out 2 different recent accounts, created at the same time, with very similar names that all they did was to defend China's autocratic government.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20725773

Although I can understand the admonition (for using the wrong medium to call out those accounts), I simply can't understand how those 2 accounts are still active, given their obvious purpose that goes againt HN guidelines in a more serious way.

samstave 31 days ago [flagged]

>First, it's not ok to use HN primarily for political, ideological, or national battle.

You need to up the Karma req for downvotes.

@Dang, Look at my current comment hist... I provide a valuable perspective. Even if others disagree with me.

YC as a greater community is greater than the sum of its (unicorn) parts.

Stop fucking censoring people for some lame idealogical moral standard which you dont even meet yourselves.

We are here to learn, to teach, to expand one fucking thing "KNOWLEDGE" stop knowBlocking (just coined that haha)


Maybe it isn't what you're saying but how you say it that gets you downvoted.

It is much more difficult to ask someone to stop doing something than to encourage them to do an alternative thing. Suggest how the alternative activity would bring them greater success.

While they may still disagree, at least they'll see that you're on the same team.


:-)

Ona lighter note.

I made some amazing flower arrangements today.

And I appreciate your comment and you. Thank you.


I mostly only comment on China related articles, with a pro-China view. Sometimes I find it necessary to comment because it is rare to see pro-China comment here. I am definitely not state-sponsored, I might be brainwashed in your opinion, but definitely not getting paid for those comments, and those comments are from the bottom of my heart :)

I don't really like to read political posts on Hacker News, I am mostly interested in technology, but those posts with China in their title are just a click bait for me because I knew they are probably biased.

Edit: yeah, a downvote when I am just expressing myself. you want me to shut up and leave, right?


I believe you, but it's against the site guidelines to use HN primarily for political battle (which includes nationalistic arguments), and it seems you have been doing so exclusively. We ban accounts for that, not because we think they're insincere, but because political flames will take over the entire site if we let them, and there's a big difference between accounts that use HN this way and accounts that use HN as intended.

The way to fix this is to use HN as intended, which means posting on an diverse range of topics for reasons of intellectual curiosity. Would you please do that instead?

More explanation here: https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20primarily%20test&sor....

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Thanks. I will not comment any more on any topics from now on. I use Hacker News to follow what's going on in tech world, unfortunately I see there are more and more political posts these days. I generally only read without commenting (either others comment has reflected my view or I don't feel the need of commenting). It is just those posts so one sided made me wanting to comment. Since your request is clear, I will no longer comment. Just to make it clear, I am not intended to have political battle at all.


Alas, I don't think my request was clear at all, if it seemed like I was asking you to stop commenting. Please don't! You are welcome here, and welcome to share your experience and perspective. It's just necessary to do it in the right spirit. To pick one example, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20307074 is the sort of comment that we would interpret as political battle.


I think that's sensible. Though reporting by omission, disproportion or passive aggressive submissions are inherently political in nature.

Suppose for a moment that all the front page China articles are other 'tech news' such as "Israel creates novel way of demolishing buildings in settlements".

Not that I have anything concrete to suggest but consider the possibility that sometimes, half of the work is already done before anyone writes the first comment 'for political battle' or not.


I have a question from you. How, as a pro-China person, do you view the Dalai Lama? Because I see a certain inconsistency that nobody can explain to me: the DL insists he doesn't care about the complete autonomy or independence [0] of Tibet, just faving a bit more freedom so that people can practice their religion and cultivate their culture. This, in my opinion, is a moderate view, and in no way a threat to the integrity of China. But somehow the Chinese freak out whenever the DL is mentioned. Why is that? If anything, I'd say the DL could help in keeping peace in Tibet. Seems absurd to me. And I'm wondering what is the official Chinese opinion about this.

[0] https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/past-is-past-tibet-not-seeki...

> "The past is past. We now have to look into the future," he said.

> "We are not seeking independence... We want to stay with China. We want more development," the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people said.


I don't care so much about Dalai Lama to be honest. I think religion has its place, but shouldn't be the center of stage. In my view, if you don't allow kids to vote before 18, why pushing religious view to them when they are young? I think that's more important to a person than political views. On personal level, I find religion is fundamentally exclusive (where you believe something is the ultimate truth), I think it shouldn't reform and develop with society and should eventually disappear. New religion should come out and replace old ones. Now religion is just trying to modernize and it shows it doesn't hold the ultimate truth, only want to win as many people as possible, like a pop band


I understand but could you explain why the Chinese government freaks out so much about the DL when in fact he has such moderate views?


I am not the government, and I cannot take their position to explain this. But here is my naive thoughts: Chinese government are engineers. If there is a bug in a feature cannot be fixed, keep the feature out of the delivery until it is fixed. DL is the feature. Also no one is willing to take the risk of working on the bug, because you may fail your KPI. So every time a customer request this feature, we will scare them off, so that no one is requesting this any more. It is kind of coward, but it doesn't know how to deal with it. And politicians in west really like the influence of DL, his popularity can help them in their career, so they want to bring him up again and again. I guess that basically is what's going on. Does it really matter every time Chinese government freaks out?

I am been told by the moderator not to comment on political issues, mainly because although I use Hacker News for tech news, I do mostly comment on China issues (not many though), apparently it is against the community guideline. so I will not comment any more. For me, I have lost wills to read news, and Hacker News is the only thing I read in the morning before work, it is unfortunately there are more and more political topics here.


Just to repeat what I tried to express elsewhere: I think your perspective is valuable. I think you should keep sharing it, as long as you do so within HN's guidelines (which you've mostly but not always done). But we do also have a rule asking people not to use HN primarily to argue about politics. The best would be for you to participate in other threads that gratify your curiosity as well—even if only to ask questions and learn. That would be much easier for us, because otherwise people are going to complain about why we enforce that rule in some cases but not others.


HHDL has a long and complicated life. His idealogy cannot be simplified to "seeking peace and religious freedom".

Tibet was a slavery society under his ruling 70 years ago, unfortunately. People do change, but there are certain historical bagagges cannot be nullified.


70 years ago, the Dalai Lama was 14 years old. It's unlikely he ruled much. The Panchen Lama was 11. Unfortunately, he had reincarnated as two different people supported by different factions in Tibet. One of them allied themselves first with the Kuomintang and then with the Communist Party, which eventually helped them have their candidate be recognized officially by the Dalai Lama. When the Dalai Lama (now 23) fled to India in 1959, the Panchen Lama sided with the Chinese government instead and was made chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region.

So on the one hand there was a lot of realpolitik in Tibetan theocracy; on the other hand the Chinese government had no qualms about continuing the system so long as it served their own purposes.


They both were kept their symbolic status at that time. HHDL was highest ranked in CCP before he fled. I don't know any evidence that sided with Koumintang backfired as you seemingly suggested for him.

Part of the system was kept (namingly the Lama leadership was kept symbolically), but the slavery is a history.

BTW, in the original post, I mentioned "70 years ago" as a way to suggest HHDL has a long and complicated life. His historical baggage by no way limits to Tibet before CCP though. It took him a long time to get his message what is today.


I'm just a guy, so it's just one perspective. I'm also not that well read so I'm likely to be mistaken so I apologize ahead of time given the sensitivity of the topic.

First, as much as I think the internet is a great knowledge spreader, it's not an amazing medium for mutual understanding. Me not paying the cost of time and money to get to a cafe to talk with you and the extreme ease of lobbing self-satisfying, snarky sound bites and closing the tab makes it really hard to talk about politics. It's really shaped by the accumulation of everything you experienced and everything you read as a person so not starting from the beginning is a disservice to communication. But alas, we can't.

FWIW, I align more with Buddhism than any other spiritual thought system. I'm sympathetic to his journey and think he and his followers are thrown into, and nominally became figureheads in a bigger clash that he can't control nor (I think) care very much about.

I don't think he himself, for instance, championed or was very fond of the CIA operation to take 2,000 Tibetans to be armed and trained in Colorado and then paradropped back into China for guerrilla warfare [1] (he was also just 20 back then). While I do think theocracy and political control [2] shouldn't mix, I don't think their social structure is anyone's business and I think he would be right to fight for self-determination. So it is unfortunate that he's stuck between having no means of opposing China vs taking US backing [3], which forces China's hands further (when China just very much finished fighting a hot war with the US).

If the world were in a vacuum, I very much believe in self-determination of all groups as Woodrow Wilson would define it. Anyone should be able to split off and do as they'd like. But as optimistic as he was going into the war, Wilson himself ultimately didn't persevere through the old world colonial powers to demonstrate that he believed it himself enough to even back a member of the victor side for self-determination [4]. Given the historical context (and the contemporary US overthrow of Albania 1949 [5], Iran 1953 [6], Guatemala 1954 [7], Greece [8], Indonesia 1958 [9], all of which decidedly did not end up with any 'self-determination' [10]), I wouldn't see China concluding that giving up Tibet in 1960 would somehow translate into Tibetan 'self-determination' rather than colonization [11].

That isn't to say though that China should be accepted for descending into absolute savage levels in the following decades of destruction. I absolutely do wish that the residents at Dharamshala could return to China if they choose so. But unfortunately I don't think the world of geopolitics is sterile enough to let it be a simple 2-party bilateral discussion.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_Tibetan_program

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/feb/10/tibet-...

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/02/world/world-news-briefs-d...

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shandong_Problem

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albanian_Subversion

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Iranian_coup_d%27état

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1954_Guatemalan_coup_d%27état

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_Civil_War

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_activities_in_Indonesia

[10] https://truthout.org/articles/us-provides-military-assistanc...

[11] https://www.jstor.org/stable/24572145?seq=1#page_scan_tab_co...


I saw the comment you are referring to and it was most likely wrong. The majority of Chinese people are genuinely "pro-China" and there are vastly more regular Chinese people than professional sockpuppets.

That being said, I do agree with keeping politics off HN and wish it was enforced a bit more strictly.


Information warfare is both political and technological. It's happening all about and is worth discussing in a mindful manner.


There is a difference between discussing information warfare and being a soldier on the battlefield though. "Keeping the politics out", to me at least, means "let's not make this place the battleground". I'd welcome that as well.


I agree.

Let's not silence ourselves.


Intentionally or not, I believe not talking about politics is politics, because not talking about something strengthens whatever the status quo - good or bad - at that time is.

I’m not advocating for constant political discussions on hacker news. But to pretend that technology can be separated from politics is to hold a false belief about reality.

Politics is fundamentally about social groups, power, and the ethical beliefs and norms of groups of people.

I believe that cultivating civility, genuine listening, and self-doubt in our hacker news community would ultimately be more constructive than pretending that our action or inaction - especially as technologists in this day and age - has no effect on our fellow human beings.


> Intentionally or not, I believe not talking about X is X [...]

That's extremist talk. HN is just one of many online communities, many of which encourage political debate. Technology can often be separated from politics as demonstrated by the majority of submissions here.


To say that humans are social by nature and require communities, is not extremist - it's simply science.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human

"Humans uniquely use such systems of symbolic communication as language and art to express themselves and exchange ideas, and also organize themselves into purposeful groups. Humans create complex social structures composed of many cooperating and competing groups, from families and kinship networks to political states."

To say that all human communities will have politics, is not extremist - it's simply language:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics

"Politics is a set of activities associated with the governance of a country or an area. It involves making decisions that apply to members of a group."

Politics, as in the process of group decision-making, is part of what it means to be human.

You could even say that you and I are engaging in a political discussion right now ;).


I was assured that this never happens on hacker news and that the evidence that I and others pointed out was both poisonous and imagined.

I would actually love to be wrong, but the explanation given was just that it has been looked into, not anything in depth or addressing the patterns being brought up. Similar disinformation and fast bulk downvoting against the general trend happens when talking about reddit's /r/bitcoin and the company Blockstream that runs it.

At least there is a dialog here and everyone generally wants the same thing (actual opinions and explanations from reasonable people with no astroturfing).


> The Internet cannot remain free if we allow governments to use their power to control narratives and suppress the truth. US-based Social media companies are not ideal judges, but at least they publish their methodology.

Would it be too cynical to suggest the only reason they're doing this is because they don't operate in mainland China? Do you think they would write a report like this if they found the US government trying to push a pro-democracy narrative into China instead?

This puts them on the right side of US regulators where as exposing a US propaganda campaign, not so much. It's not about truth, or what's morally right, it's about money.


> Do you think they would write a report like this if they found the US government trying to push a pro-democracy narrative into China instead?

Yes.

It might be framed differently. But besides being something that can be uncovered by a myriad of legal mechanisms (FOIA, state AG suits, sunshine laws, et cetera), it would almost certainly emerge in quarterly risk factor disclosures around political retribution.


> Do you think they would write a report like this if they found the US government trying to push a pro-democracy narrative into China instead?

Yes, they would. No doubt about it.

> This puts them on the right side of US regulators where as exposing a US propaganda campaign, not so much.

Which regulator do you think would object to such a revelation?

> It's not about truth, or what's morally right, it's about money.

Yeah, that's often true, but if it's true that Hong Kongers living under a system where due process is respected is also what's good for "money", then "money" and what's morally right happen to be aligned this time.


Hong Kong has independent jurisdiction system. So yes, they are living under a system where due process is respected.


What's that worth to Hong Kongers when they can simply be renditioned to Beijing?

Does it make sense to you why Americans were extremely upset when the US government did that to people in foreign countries during the Bush administration?


First, they cannot be renditioned. That's what this protest is about.

Yes. It is upset. It is also upsetting that the U.S. actually have limited due process as well (thus, can forfeit the asset without due process). There are practical reasons why, but it is still ideologically upsetting.


Late reply, sorry.

My understanding is that the now suspended new law would make it legal for Beijing to have a person taken from Hong Kong with nothing more than the signoff of the CE, who is basically Beijing's appointee. It's my opinion that there is no due process in PRC, so it's effectively making Hong Kongers subject to renditioning.

I agree that civil forfeiture as practiced for the last 20 years in the United States is wrong and needs to stop. The US government does some horribly unjust things, sometimes for decades without being checked. Few commentors on this web site would deny that. It's very important that governments don't get away with criminalizing dissent otherwise it's even more difficult to stop other excesses and abuses.


> Would it be too cynical to suggest the only reason they're doing this is because they don't operate in mainland China? Do you think they would write a report like this if they found the US government trying to push a pro-democracy narrative into China instead?

Excellent point. Snowden's revelations show that US tech companies have been threatened to comply with the three-letter agencies' demands. The US govenrment already has a lot of leverage over these companies, so they don't need to use these more primitive methods.


The internet is already not free for much of the world. It's depressing to type this but China successfully created a parallel version of the internet that is anything but free. That model got exported and now you see the same approach being taken across the world. The direction we seem to be heading in is one where the world's collective internet systems are effectively Balkanized.


As the article says, "Twitter is blocked in PRC". Probably an own-goal in situations like this, since the army of Chinese-government loyalists can't be fully unleashed upon the world. The people of China generally seem pretty loyal to its government, but I'm unsure how much that is due to constant monitoring and systems like "social credit".


From what I saw, `constant monitoring and systems like "social credit"` won't buy loyalty. Ordinary people do that more out of patriotism, an emotion against those who spread misinformation against their country. It's sort of like someone talking shit about your hometown, and you feel the urge to defend. Not a state-sponsored thing.


Do they make no distinction between the government and their country? Perhaps their country would be even better with a different government, one that isn't constantly bringing itself into disrepute with lack of openness and bullying.


Things won't turn to be bright overnight. Openness and no bullying is nice. But it takes time to get there. Some counterexamples are Iraq or Libya. Governments changed overnight to be closer to the way Westerners like. But are people better off? Civil wars. Ethnic group divides. Oil interests.

It's easier to point out things you don't like when things aren't the way you like than offer pragmatic solutions.


In this vein, perhaps there needs to an internet restricted to Democracies?


There are pretty fun examples of how people try to dodge censorship.

For example the Hong Kong billionaire Li Kha Shing managed to post a two page newspaper ad which contains a hidden message:

https://i.imgur.com/7IJLn3g.jpg

Translation: https://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/csg9yz/hong_kong_bill...


For people who cannot open Reddit on mobile :

"if you take the last character from each part, top to bottom, left to right:

因果由國 容港治己 義憤民誠 - Cause and effect came from (or depends on) the country, allow Hong Kong govern itself, righteous indignation came from people being honest."


That's a super clever way of hiding a message.


China's all-weather partner, Pakistan, has been doing similar information warfare against India regarding Kashmir after abrogation of article 370 on Aug5.

"We have found that just after the annulment of Article 370, more than 1,500 bots (fake profiles) from Pakistan surfaced on social media and started trending anti-India narrative. In these tweets, they are also urging United Nations to intervene," said Tarun Vig, co-founder of Innefu Labs, a cybersecurity firm. He added on August 5 alone, more than 1,000 Twitter accounts were created from Pakistan which was discussing India and Kashmir. Bot profiles were sharing the same tweets over and over again.

0: https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/newsindia/pakistan-bots-wage-...

Some fake videos: https://www.altnews.in/pak-minister-shares-edited-clip-to-fa... https://www.indiatoday.in/fact-check/story/kashmir-massacre-... https://www.republicworld.com/india-news/general-news/isi-ba...

Some twitter action: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/check-our-transpar...


The US mainstream media is bought and paid for by corporations, who don't have the public good in mind, but maximizing profit at the expense of all else including reporting on corruption, oligarchy, and environmental abuse.

The government should not control the media, but neither should advertisers.


true, and that’s definitely a problem, but government is a bigger issue because they have the ability to force a population: corporations can only influence (we can have a different discussion about how corporations give you “choice” but not really, but i think they’re different cases, and government is clear cut)


Ain't government is comprised of corporate owners? President. Then there's lobbying/bribing. Create/participate in wars. Sell weapons to the human rights respecting Saudi. And when corporations die, they take the people's money.

That's beyond giving me a choice. Lols.


i agree with you completely, but a law is far more clear cut than complex social dynamics.

the outcome is similar in either way, and both are equally bad, but one is far easier to define specific actions, and specific parties that are not acting correctly.


>The Internet cannot remain free if we allow governments to use their power to control narratives and suppress the truth.

I wish more people applied this same line of reasoning towards the US-based social media companies themselves.

If we hold true that Twitter's influence is so powerful that world superpowers are gaming it effectively to control narratives, then why aren't people more outraged at the near constant censoring of alternative voices in the West? Why are we cheering the use of corporate power when it's wielded against an ideological opponent in the East, but when it's wielded against ideological opponents in the West we hear a chorus of "it's a private company, it can do what it wants". Ultimately, we're just rejecting communist state-power with corporatist private-power.

I can agree that the latter is preferable, but I wish people would see the parallels.


The hive mind refuses to engage with hard-hitting analysis like this. Hence the down votes and no responses.

Outside of this scope, what is concerning me is that you can't hold a pro-china position. Look at the other comments here.

> I have some friends in China posting similar anti-protest posts on WeChat social media. It's like the news they read has a completely different story than what it's being told in legitimate new sources.

Holding a pro-china position apparently means you're reading fake news or part of a misinformation campaign.

The news we read is CORRECT, the news you read is WRONG.

We have the same problem here in the West. If you go against the church of progressivem you're a Russianbot.

Twitter needs to not get involved. It's election meddling, even if they take the "pro-democratic" side.


It's not election meddling. It's counter-meddling. Counter-meddling is itself kind of a form of meddling, but you're left with no choice if your platform is in the process of being deceitfully meddled with by one of the most powerful states in human history.


Agreed. Would Twitter take the same stand against a regime whose policies it agreed with?


Both parties aren't perfect but compared to state media, great firewall, social credit, kidnapping, and concentration camps it's weird to point out the shortcomings of Western social media companies.


Twitter can't "disappear" me in real life. That's the difference, I think?


> why aren't people more outraged at the near constant censoring of alternative voices in the West?

This is making a false assumption that the "censorship" is because of being different instead of those people not following super strict terms of service like "please don't use our service to start mass harassment campaigns of other people" or "don't advocate for genocide".

Hell, the constant complaining about twitter ("the hell site") on its own platform is proof of something.

You're saying "X happened to person with characteristic Y here, and people are cheering, therefore it's because of Y". That's rarely what's going on.

Most people are fine with China Daily being on Twitter in principle, just like Voice of America has an account despite it being basically American propaganda targeted abroad. The problem came in the specific actions being taken by these people.

Perhaps some ideologies lead to behavior that get them in trouble


Some of the accounts were so obvious that I accidentally found them just reading tweets in Hong Kong related hashtags.

There were random-looking screen names with stolen images for avatars tweeting almost verbatim the same messages:

https://twitter.com/davywtf/status/1160959728626929671


US-based social media companies publish more methodology about how they remove Chinese accounts as opposed to how they remove American accounts. It becomes even more absurd considering that Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council contains no civil libertarians or anything resembling balanced interests.


[flagged]


I was thinking the same thing. But powerful countries (US, China, Russia, and probably a few other countries) have the capabilities to shoot down satellites. Maybe they will opt for that or at least threaten to do that if Musk allows to much freedom?


China will not be able to shoot down satellites just to stop video feeds escaping. Its an act of war. Also the USA will surely have capabilities to resist such attacks, and it only takes 1 stream to get through.

Democracy/free-enterprise need only hold its nerve, and it will win. Not for some moral reason, but simply because the overhead of maintaining a police-state is so much greater than a transparent society.


I hope you are right.


Most of those "sock puppet" accounts are not hard to detect and bucket.


HongKonger here. I have some friends in China posting similar anti-protest posts on WeChat social media. It's like the news they read has a completely different story than what it's being told in legitimate new sources. The problem of fake news does become very apparent, and I hope people in China can eventually gain awareness or at least start to question the validity of their news sources.


Native Chinese here. Hacker news have been a great place to learn new things to me for 5 years. But the political views on Hacker news are somewhat naive to me. It seems that the Chinese Government is always evil and wrong, but why haven't the government collapsed after so many years if there were no people supporting them?

People in China, at least those millions people who are able to cross the Great Firewall, know that democracy is generally good, but they also know that a strong central government can also be useful for certain circumstances. Most westerners and HongKongers on Hacker news have a very extreme political view, you just believe "democracy is good"(TM), protesting against the evil Chinese government is good. But can you take a closer look at what is really happening in HK and then decide what you believe?

BTW, I'm neither pro-protester nor pro-police, I think the protest is a result of economic regression in HK. You could also check my comment and posting history to see that I'm not a 五毛党.


IMO the CCP gets its legitimacy to govern from its performance in some key areas: economic development and stability/security. That plays to the party's strengths, so the state-controlled media has actively promoted the view that these factors are the most important. Note how issues like the environment and health care were very much put on the back burner until public awareness and criticism reached a critical threshold, after which the party acknowledged the issues. So it's no surprise that the CCP enjoys a broad level of support on the mainland—it has performed well in the key areas it has convinced people matters most.

In a liberal democracy, on the other hand, people expect much more responsiveness to their concerns. And people tend to value freedom of expression and freedom from suppression. Those values are treasured in Hong Kong.

So no wonder mainlanders and HKers have different outlooks on this issue.


> the state-controlled media has actively promoted the view that these factors are the most important

Or those are the most important factors and that's why they are optimizing for them first. Carville's slogan for Bill Clinton was "It's the economy, stupid", and it's plausible at least. What good does a healthy environment if you don't have food to eat? What good does economic progress if you don't have security? The West has operated very similarly imho, we're just further along. Environmentalism is still fairly young, and so are today's social safety nets (well, in Europe anyway). I don't see a reason why the Chinese wouldn't follow on that route (and indeed they are starting to care for the environment more).

> In a liberal democracy, on the other hand, people expect much more responsiveness to their concerns. And people tend to value freedom of expression and freedom from suppression.

But that's only because the basic needs are generally taken care of. I don't see any liberal democracy valuing freedom over food security (en masse, certainly some happily value their freedom over the food security of others in society).


> I don't see a reason why the Chinese wouldn't follow on that route

That was the hope and belief behind Nixon's trip to China, and the inclusion of China into the WTO. But with Xi taking power, arguably the most totalitarian leader in China since Mao, there is no sign that civil liberties are anywhere on the horizon.

> But that's only because the basic needs are generally taken care of.

History does not agree with you, I think. People were fighting for democracy as a response to totalitarian systems which did not provide them with the resources and security they wanted—even before the age of plenty brought about by industrialization. And when the west was democratized, a lot of those countries were ravaged by two world wars, and far behind where China is today.

And when it all got underway, were not the ideals of the enlightenment in large part a counter to monarchies and feudalism which failed to provide what the people needed? If one sets aside the notion that without freedom, a plentiful existence loses its meaning (which is another, philosophical argument), I think the fight for representation in government is precisely a fight to achieve one's economic and social goals.


> there is no sign that civil liberties are anywhere on the horizon

The main question is probably what time frame that horizon is. It's hard to predict the future, very, very few people in 1985 (or even in '88) believed the SU would collapse, and yet it did a short time later. "The Chinese are destroying their environment" was a meme, now they are somewhere at the top regarding new sustainable energy installed, and they are fighting pollution (Beijing is in the situation Los Angeles was a few decades ago).

> People were fighting for democracy as a response to totalitarian systems which did not provide them with the resources and security they wanted

That's what I'm trying to say. People want stuff, and a mostly capitalist, mostly democratic society is good at providing stuff for a large majority of the population. If it wasn't, people would care very little for democracy. Throw us into a hard and long recession and offer a (to the majority of the population) plausible way out via authoritarian measures and, so I believe, you'll be surprised how quickly they'll agree to abandon democracy. Democracy is to most (or to all? a different argument is mostly made by the affluent, and they never need to choose) a means to an end, not an end in itself. The CCP is currently still ranking very favorably compared to "before CCP" with regards to providing stuff. If that changes, or people believe that democracy could provide significantly more with few trade-offs, I expect the general sentiment to change. (Pro tip: want to fuel desire for democracies around the world? Make sure all/most citizens in Western democracies massively profit continuously from the democratic system, not just a minority at the top)

Given that civil liberties often follow wealth (it's easy to be generous when you're rich), I don't see why that wouldn't happen in China. They're not at a Western level of wealth yet, and for a significant part of the population, poverty is still the primary concern, not civil liberties. When that has changed, so will demands of the population (though it's unlikely they will too closely follow Western values, given their culture is very different in many regards).


In a poor country, how are economic development and stability/security not pragmatically the most important values?


There are many, many countries with GDPs per capita lower than China's which have democracy and freedom of speech. It's not an either/or proposition


>Most westerners and HongKongers on Hacker news have a very extreme political view, you just believe "democracy is good"(TM),

That is not true. I used to dislike Democracy, and some what Pro Authoritarianism when I was young. It is how you get things done. Until you grow old and have a much wider view to balance. Democracy is the worst form of government. It is not like we don't know what crap and shit democracy brings us. Constant arguing and struggle against one and other, but it is also the only one that works. It brings Order within Chaos.

Democracy is the only system that can contain two ( or more ) opposing force, and anyone will always have the Option to choose. Being able to choose is important. Freedom isn't about doing what you what, it is about having the option of saying No to things you don't want to.

The need for Democracy wan't obvious until you have been on the oppressed side.

Right now the option of saying No is slowly and gradually being taken away in Hong Kong.

>I think the protest is a result of economic regression in HK

Yes and No. First there isn't any economic regression in HK. Second it is the wealth inequality that is the highest in any developed nation, and the 2nd part cant be solved without having a government that work with Hong Kong people, not against it.


This doesn’t make sense. The slaving government in ancient Egypt was supported for a long time. Just because a form of government exists doesn’t mean it isn’t abusive to some of it’s people or to other countries.


I'm not saying that the Chinese government is a good government. But a slaving government IS better than warlords. And historically speaking, the current government did unify China in 1949, which is a very important thing in Chinese culture.

If we were to overthrow the Chinese government, can we get a better tomorrow for the Chinese people? The west have show us what happened in Middle East. Clearly, wars are not what we want.

I'm saying that we want democracy, we do want that, but blaming it all to "the evil communist party" is not a good way show us how to get a democracy, please provide some practical guidance. Thanks.


i think the problem is that the current chinese government is going further and further away from what average chinese citizens would probably want, and them using misinformation to keep order

hong kong has demonstrated, with some of the largest protests in global history, that they do not want the chinese government to interfere with the autonomy that they currently have. the chinese government has responded with misinformation to sway their population so that they can continue to constrain hong kong in ways that they don’t want

the point isn’t really that the chinese government isn’t better than an alternative, it’s that it’s going in a direction further away from what it’s citizens would generally agree they want, and not allowing people the knowledge to even know it’s happening, let alone the freedom to have a discussion about alternatives


> further and further away from what average chinese citizens would probably want

Like "being raised out of poverty"? For large parts of the Chinese population, the biggest concern isn't 4G coverage or cultural appropriation at some college party.


it’s not either or


I don’t think that, practically, countries have often gone from authoritarian to democratic without violence.


Ahem. South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan. They were authoritarian before they were democratic.


All the examples you gave are of small countries with largely the same ethnic group. China also is largely Han Chinese but the region is pretty big so it would have differences. Also, areas like Tibet or where Uighurs live will want out.


Just because a government is abusive to some of its people doesn't mean it has no value. Just look at the US


Please don't take HN threads further into flamewar.


The US is in an awful state. But they don't treat their own people as bad as China has.

Is there an equivalent instance of the Tiananmen Square massacre in the US? (I'm asking, I don't know).

The US has their fair share of issues but freedom to speak against the government has always been a big thing.


The US government isn't abusive to its people though.


How do you define abusive?


You can make a decent argument that it has been, and definitely is sometimes, for certain definitions of "government" and subsections of people.

Whataboutism is lazy though, and I do find it telling that the go-to argument a lot of pro-China commenters across platforms use is exactly that...


When slavery was legal, sure. But in the last, say, 50 years (e.g., since the 64 Civil Rights Act)? I don't see it.

Also, I'm not aware of multiple definitions for the US government.


https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/private-government-how-employers-ru...

While private government isn't US government, they are very much interlaced, pair-evolving and authoritarian being governments.


That’s an interesting theory. But you’re right—it isn’t the US government, so it’s not really germane.


Police brutality, racially targeted drug operations by the CIA/FBI, and the ignoring of the AIDS crisis come to mind in the past 50 years. The civil rights act didn't magically solve everything. Those are just a few major things, plenty of others to go around.


> Police brutality

Actions taken by individuals who are employed by the government--especially when such actions are explicitly illegal--hardly count as an abusive government.

> racially targeted drug operations by the CIA/FBI

Got a link?

> ignoring of the AIDS crisis

Allocation of scarce resources in a way that you personally disagree with is not the same as an abusive government.


> Actions taken by individuals who are employed by the government--especially when such actions are explicitly illegal--hardly count as an abusive government.

When the justice department does not enact the punishments for the laws they set, it is absolutely government abuse. Authority is authority, and people rarely use it uniformly. All are government action unless actual steps are taken to punish it.

> Got a link?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_involvement_in_Contra_coca... https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/hear...

And then combine that with the sentencing differences between crack cocaine and cocaine (same drug, vastly different punishments). You can also look at the legal treatment of opioids and the origins of marijuana laws (originally targeting mexicans)

http://www.drugpolicy.org/issues/race-and-drug-war

> Research shows that prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a mandatory minimum sentence for black people as for white people charged with the same offense. Among people who received a mandatory minimum sentence in 2011, 38% were Latino and 31% were black.

Again, the justice department's actions are government actions. Absolutely abuse of citizens.

> Allocation of scarce resources in a way that you personally disagree with is not the same as an abusive government.

Not that scare really, first of all. Secondly, resource allocation is a powerful tool that's literally used to strongarm other countries and across world politics. The action does not define abuse, the effect of the action does (in my book at least). Letting thousands die because it is affecting a minority population is an abusive policy. To take this to an extreme, food is a scarce resource, so if the US made a law saying X people don't get food, that would 100% be abuse. Now that's nowhere near the same thing, but it shows that again, the effect defines abuse, not the action.

--------------------------------------

I think the latter two come down to a fundamental difference in the definition of abuse. If you use a literal model of an army physically hurting people then sure. And it's not the exact same thing - nowhere did I say HK = USA. But your first comment got the reaction it did because it appeared to sweep a lot of the US's less than ideal history under the rug for the revisionist "Well post slavery/civil rights everything was great!".


[flagged]


I’m chill. I’m also patriotic though, and so I respond when people make snide comments about how horrible and abusive the US is.


Firstly, gay marriage has only been legal since 2015 federally — that's a type of abuse. But even if you don't think it is, the American Revolution had some type of value even though slavery was still a part of America's history. Therefore, America still provided some value even though it was abusing its citizens.


> gay marriage has only been legal since 2015 federally — that's a type of abuse

No, it isn't.

> the American Revolution had some type of value even though slavery was still a part of America's history. Therefore, America still provided some value

I never suggested otherwise.


Maybe people(Han Chinese) are not protesting because they know what happens if you protest, look at what happened in Tianamen square.

Also, the people who are protesting are crushed like what happens in Tibet or Xinjiang.

A strong central government might be good for the majority but surely when it suppresses the minorities to just get them in line with the rest, you can't overlook that.


This is unfortunately wrong.

Most people in China don't protest because: 1. they don't get enough benefit from protesting 2. they are happy

Most fellows on HN, respectfully, barely has any understanding on how CCP works internally.

Do they imagine that a bunch of Chinese officials form a party just to think about how to enslave/suppress people and inhale money everyday?

It's all about national interest, people are just pawn. On the HK matter: CCP brainwashes Chinese by amplifying the violent aspect of the protest. Western media brainwashes westerners by understating the damage caused by protest and glorifying their actions.

At the end of day, none of this matters. Power is power. Someone will figure out how to "fix" HK's education system. Leaders of protest go to good US uni on scholarship and have a good life. Fugitives will still need to be handled somehow. Game of monopoly will continue.

Life will go on.


People generally are naive. Many things can be said about that, I recommend reading Leary’s eight-circuit model of consciousness.

Why do people support bad governments? I recommend reading about Havel's greengrocer.

Obviously the Chinese government is capable of doing some things right or it would, as you say, collapse.


Thanks, books added to my reading list.


> Most westerners and HongKongers on Hacker news have a very extreme political view, you just believe "democracy is good"(TM)

this is itself a very extreme statement. can you provide sources of such claims? I would agree there is a general sentiment of "CCP is bad", but there are similar consternations about many governments, usually the US government.


I cannot speak for the general US populous, but if California were protesting a decision by the US federal government, I would want your support.

It is exactly because of their power that large institutions should be treated with caution. They can be tools for progress or oppression.


Really interesting to read about your perspective. Thank you for sharing.

Quick follow-up question. Do you believe this [1] is a legitimate transmission from the CCP? What are your thoughts about it?

[1] https://pincong.rocks/article/3572


It could be true.

The Publicity Department of CCP or its branches did issue files like this one in the past. However, posts on this site are all blindly anti-CCP, which make me doubt the legitimacy of this file. Also, there is a mistake in this file, 三(three) was used twice.


I don't think anyone who has thought about government for more than a few minutes believes that democracy is a form of government without significant downsides. Authoritarian governments have many advantages over democracies. An easy example is the current trade war. Authoritarian governments have a much easier time weathering pain for a long term benefit than democracies who change leaders every four years.

The Chinese government survives for the same reason every authoritarian government has survived throughout history. Overthrowing governments is really hard and requires truly extreme circumstances. That's the core problem that democracy solves. Overthrowing a democratic government is as easy as checking a box on a form. Overthrowing an authoritarian government requires violence.


> Overthrowing a democratic government is as easy as checking a box on a form.

Yes and no. You're changing the representatives of the government, but the general circumstances are largely continuing. You don't see a large turn when a new government is elected in a democracy, which you would if it was "overthrown", imho. Similarly, you won't see a large turn in an authoritarian society if the president changes, because in both cases, "the system" remains the same, and changing the face of the system doesn't fundamentally change anything.


Well you might if Congress was overhauled but most of them get re-elected without term limits. People often mistake the President for some kind of autocrat who can make arbitrary decisions when the real power is in the legislature.


Don’t worry we criticize the U.S. government too ;-)


It's almost impossible for westerners to conceive of living in a society without a strong and independent judicial system and without being able to vote for their political leaders.

Westerners in general deeply value their political voice and freedoms.

And since the Chinese government doesn't value these at all, then you can't blame us for thinking that the Chinese government does very few things right.


> but why haven't the government collapsed after so many years if there were no people supporting them?

Totalitarianism?


I'm generally anti-Communist party of China, but mostly because I believe their bureaucracy is completely inept. But I have to agree with you, the vast majority of Western-based HN commenters are politically naïve, as if they just stepped out of a high school US government class. The reason is that US education, while it acknowledges the flaws of democracy, also proclaims that it is the only acceptable form of government.


I dispute this. Democracy is not advertised as the only acceptable form of Government, but it is the fairest and best model we've got. You're creating a straw-man with this argument.


Firstly, I'm not arguing anything, so there is no straw man.

Obviously it's not the only form of government, but we are told that it's the only one that's acceptable. There's no objective evaluation and consideration of any alternative political systems. You prove my point. The idea that it's the fairest and best is also subjective. A government gets its authority from the people, and if the Chinese grant authority to its leaders, even absolute authority, (and you can grant authority by simply being pacifist), then who's to say the Chinese government is illegitimate? You? To them your opinions are illegitimate.

Even our government is not a perfect democracy. We do not direct vote the president (Trump lost the popular election), and we are not equally represented in these elections (through gerrymandering, electoral college, etc). So to claim that a democracy, any democracy, or even our own democracy, is somehow the "fairest and best" is extremely disingenuous. These things are justified as a way to prevent "tyranny by the majority", but really it's just another 3/5ths law (black peoples' votes only counted as 3/5ths of a vote)—a way to prevent the redistribution of power.

We don't have a perfect government system, which means it's arguable if we have the best system because that would imply there is no room for improvement. Our education system espouses propoganda that our democratic system is the best in the world, as exemplified by LilByte's statement and views.

That being said, in my experience, the Chinese system is much worse, but due to incompetent bureaucracy, rather than a fundamental issue with a 1-party system. I'm sure Europeans think their multi-party system is also the "fairest and best" too, at least compared to America's 2 party system. I don't believe the Chinese have a better system, but it's fundamentally flawed to walk around with the assumption that our democracy is the best way out there.

One of the big misconceptions of the Chinese political system is that it's something akin to a dictatorship, but it's not. While it has 1-party, internally there are still votes, discourse, and factions. The main difference is that once a decision is made on something, the factions are not allowed to act in their own interest against the unified goals that were already decided on. In the US system, if, say the President has decided something, the opposing party can work to counter his progress in implementing whatever agenda he has decided on. This makes sense to keep one party in check, because if the President is in a different party, he probably has an agenda to ignore the agenda of the opposing party. Civic engagement is also not forced upon people, especially uneducated or ill-informed people. But this doesn't mean that people cannot participate in government.


I'm not an advocate for the US Political system. Having grown up in Europe and moved to Australia. Therefore your assumptions that I'd use the US as the benchmark I set for my democratic wishes is misguided and the majority of your argument falls flat as a consequence. Democracy allows the very thing your discouraging, _choice_.

Your democracy or rather the US democracy is not my own. And for the arguments you've made, I agree. Fortunately I don't live in the US and never have. Likely never will.

Your criticisms of the US version of Democracy are valid, fortunately Democracy allows that recourse and discussion if not out right encourages it. The Chinese political system I cannot imagine would be so welcoming of this type of discourse.

That you defend and disguise the Chinese Dictatorship as a potential alternative to Democracy, this argument leaves me flabbergasted.


I'm not defending Chinese dictatorship. And since you did not grow up educated in the US system like I was, I hardly see how you can claim I'm incorrect in stating that the US education system teaches us how democracy (particularly US democracy) is the best (if still flawed) system. That was my original point in my original post. I'm not sure why you are derailing it and turning this into a "me supporting China" thing. I do not support their regime (though I admit I"m also not subject to their regime so I'd have no reason to support them), but that doesn't mean that I also got brainwashed by the US education system.


Clearly it is an alternative to democracy. It’s existed more or less successfully for some 80 years now.

The question is if it’s really a place any of us (who grew up in a democracy) would want to live.

The ethos of the CCP is just fundamentally incompatible with my own worldview, even though I can admit to their effectiveness so far.

I’m not really willing to accept the existence of such a country in my world either.


Yes, totalitarian dictatorships are a literal alternative to Democracy, though I feel we're nitpicking on the semantics of my words here.

When I say I don't see Totalitarian Dictatorships as an alternative, I don't mean in the literal sense, I mean in the viable sense. In the literal sense, yes, it's an alternative to Democracy. As is building a house on sand is a literal but not viable alternative to building a house on concrete.

I don't think many would want to live under a Chinese authoritarian rule given the Democratic alternatives. Or perhaps they would until they're rounded up in Xinjiang camps, shot in the face with rubber bullets for wanting to protect their current way of life or ran over by Tanks by asking for change to better their way of life.

But if we've seen what the conversations that are occurring in China about these violent acts taken by the CCP, it's clear the populace think it's in their best interests at this time. Though it's worth adding that the message we receive about the CCP's actions is very different to those living in China. I recommend anyone to watch the documentary created by Vice below about the atrocities that are occurring in Xinjiang and the first hand opinions of those that live there.

I would guess the opinions of those being interviewed are honest with a side of oppression.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7AYyUqrMuQ


> I don't think many would want to live under a Chinese authoritarian rule given the Democratic alternatives. Or perhaps they would until they're rounded up in Xinjiang camps, shot in the face with rubber bullets for wanting to protect their current way of life or ran over by Tanks by asking for change to better their way of life.

There's an easy way to find out. Go poll the Chinese people. To be honest many Chinese do want to leave, but only because the country has been poor and most western countries are wealthy. This has been lessening over time.


Speaking of documentaries, I would recommend BBC's The People's Republic of Capitalism [1].

[1]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mtf2H4YrYVw


China is not a totalitarian dictatorship.


No?

Definition:

Totalitarianism is a political concept of a mode of government that prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life.


When the fake news is generated and controlled by a government entity, I think the better term is "propaganda".


It seems unreasonable to restrict the term propaganda to government since any organization can produce propaganda, i.e. "information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view."


If it's not from the government, we call it marketing. :-)


This is incorrect. Marketing is not necessarily used to promote political change. There are plenty of examples of propaganda in for-proft and non-profit (yet non-state) media which is clearly propaganda and not marketing simultaneously.


Best example of Market-ganda ever, marketers protecting their own. 6 names for the same idea - manipulating others for self-gain.


Tell that to the political facebook ad companies.


When Trump sells MAGA hats, it is both marketing and a tool for political change.

Musk selling electric cars can also fall under both categories. People with electric cars are more likely to support policies that make it easier to own electric cars and less likely to care about fossil fuels.


Unless it's from a media outlet in which case we call it "agenda"


Nah, it's still called propaganda. The agenda is what is promoted, not the product nor technique of the promotion.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_through_media


Also wrong to call only negative things propaganda


Good catch.


If you havent already, watch the two following Documentaries:

"Century of Self"

https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-century-of-the-self/

---

"Human Resources"

https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/human-resources/

---


It's not necessarily fake, just very selective. When all you hear/see are videos of molotov cocktail, beating the reporter up for having a pro-police tshirt, and british/american flag waving (All of which did happen). You'll have a pretty different image of the protestors.

I have to say this selection bias exist on the other end as well, perhaps not as blatant as mainland, where the girl gotten her eye shot or the triad beating people wasn't shown at all.


> I have to say this selection bias exist on the other end as well, perhaps not as blatant as mainland, where the girl gotten her eye shot or the triad beating people wasn't shown at all.

There is selection bias on both sides.

A small nitpick, the news about the girl gotten her eye shot is not hidden from Chinese news, but was presented as being shot by a slingshot of a marble by the protestors (in Chinese [1], Google translate [2]). According to reporters who were at the scene, the girl was definitely shot by the police, because only the police could fire the bean bag round which was stuck in the goggles of the girl and caused such injuries. Put differently, CCP is spreading fake news via state media instead of hiding it from the public view.

Similar story for the triad beating people: it was presented as the triad was trying to protect their homes from the protestors (in Chinese [3], Google translation failed). The news was not hidden from public view.

[1]: https://news.163.com/19/0819/17/EMV7LC0V0001899O.html

[2]: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=zh-CN&u=http...

[3]: https://news.ifeng.com/c/7odVZYB5BUn


It's been awhile since I've been over there. How easy is it for those in mainland China to get access to banned tv shows and films? I remember lots of DVD content being sold on the street, but I never came across anything that was in direct opposition to the politics of the regime.

What if Netflix (or some other production company) produced a compelling show with an incredibly critical narrative about the PRC and its leadership? Would citizens in mainland China be able to access it through roundabout means? Would you be able to sow the seeds of democracy? Would they even be interested?

The last time I was on campus in Shanghai and Beijing, half of those I spoke to were critical of the party and did not believe China would catch up to the West. The other half were total ideological zealots and made me know that my government was inferior.

Given my vantage point, I believe the citizenry is at a precipice, but there is no inciting moment to tip the scale. Life in China is comfortable for the burgeoning middle class, and nobody would want to rock that boat.

In any case, I think an unfettered political drama about the PRC would be fascinating to watch.


>What if Netflix (or some other production company) produced a compelling show with an incredibly critical narrative about the PRC and its leadership?

In a way, they've already done this. See "Joshua: Teenager versus Superpower". It's a documentary from the precursor to these protests, the Umbrella Revolution of 2014. They definitely don't take a pro-PRC stance on the issue.

>Would citizens in mainland China be able to access it through roundabout means?

Yes, VPNs are very common (especially among younger and more educated populations)

>Would you be able to sow the seeds of democracy? Would they even be interested?

This is more complicated. It's important to realize that there's a rational reason that many people have for supporting the CCP. On the whole, their lives have gotten significantly better over the last couple of decades. They're optimistic about the future. Attacks on the Party are attacks on the mechanism that has ushered in economic growth. To this extent, I wouldn't expect democracy to be welcomed by the average person any time soon; it's simply not a national value for them in the way that it is for the United States.

(Huge caveat: remember it's a country of over a billion people and making generalizations is necessarily going to gloss over large sub-populations that may have an entirely different world view)


Its been a while for me too, I lived in Beijing for a little over 3 years and it has been my experience that access to western media was not all that difficult. There was a general consensus among my friends (mostly academics) that this was by design as the state saw a need for at-least some dissenting discussion among an "intellectual upperclass" to prevent stagnation. I find it amusing that the state controlled news media sounded more like an epic drama then anything we in the west would consider "political news".


I have a Chinese friend who went to an Ivy League University, married an American, and currently works for a FAANG company and lives in the Bay Area. Yet they publicly support the PRC Government on Facebook and vehemently attack anyone who express support of Hong Kongers.

People believe in what they choose to believe.


> People believe in what they choose to believe.

The same thing can be said about what you are believing about Chinese governments.

How would you be sure that you are not biased because of all the western media you consumed?

Have you been to China and seen what happened there?

Your friend may have access to information on both sides and made the judgement. I would think twice before you ignore this.


That’s the power of totalitarian!


I think it's not just about censorship. Many mainland Chinese abroad who have access to unfiltered media still support Beijing.

Chinese people generally value stability and harmony over individual rights. So, why would mainland Chinese people support violent protesters who protest for Hong Kong having more individual rights than the mainland does?


I think those that don't agree, just don't post it. Being scared of the state and their score.

Not sure though.

But since 996, I think most of them are pretty aware what is happening abroad ( sometimes)


Disinformation is very popular right now. It is happening everywhere. Humans have much power with social media, it is getting abused. The good news is that Facebook and Twitter are finding ways to slow it down. Maybe that technology can be imported into WeChat somehow.


same in brazil and crimea and before that arabspring.

the obvious fake content on youtube and facebook was reported and removed, but all it did was hide the traces of the content that flooded private whatsapp groups.


Interesting. Are the images shared from this article suggesting that protesters are destroying property and engaging in other such behavior fake or somehow being taken out of context?


> Are the images shared from this article suggesting that protesters are destroying property and engaging in other such behavior fake or somehow being taken out of context?

Yes. Some protesters destroyed property. But the Hong Kong protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful.

Almost shockingly peaceful. Millions of people are mobilizing in cramped quarters. Very few cultures have the restraint to coördinate so massively with barely any mistakes.

Contrast this with the counter-protesters, in Hong Kong [1] and overseas [2]. Pro-Xi protesters are violent at about the same frequency as (if not higher than) Hong Kong's protesters. This despite there being far fewer pro-Xi protesters on the ground.

[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-49066982

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/30/world/australia/hong-kong...


I was educating myself of Kashmir protestors in Srinagar and found a stark contrast between Kashmiri protestors (with their ISIS banners: https://i.imgur.com/ib8OVE4.png) and HK protestors who are peaceful, educated in the issue and careful with sparking any kind of violence. It is amazing really and one of the most well organized large scale protests in the modern history of mankind.


Well it is certainly a willful misrepresention of the protest movement as a whole, to share the window smashing and say "radical people of hong kong" "complete violent behavior" - the context is peaceful revolution, the context is riot cops showing up and applying violent repression of crowds.

You're asking questions of concern without taking a side by the way, suggesting that maybe the mainlanders are right to see the protesters as violent and deserving of violent repression by a dictatorship. I would urge you to be a little less willing to take the dictator's side on this.


I try to not take sides, but rather to simply evaluate evidence. As the evidence shifts in one direction or another, so do my views. To see why judging issues by the groups involved instead of evidence, one doesn't need to go back far. The Iraq war ended up costing hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, trillions of dollars, and helped accelerate a rapid destabilization of the entire Mideast setting the stage of the rise of groups such as Islamic State and its ongoing reign of terror.

The mainstream media were all, in orchestrated unison, arguing loudly for the war. And the government provided lots of allusions to evidence and appeals to authority, demanding support for it. And this was a conflict with the 'good guys' versus a literal dictator who was undoubtedly a horrible person. Yet the consequences of that war far dwarfed the atrocities of that man. And it was all based on lies. There was no WMD, the secret high level insider source was a taxi driver who had no connection to the government, the 'mobile weapon labs' were helium generating stations for use in conventional artillery, etc.

Throughout history it's not infrequent that such things happen. We'd like to imagine that when the 'good guys' win good things happen, but reality is often not so kind.

---

Attaching this as an addendum since I've now been throttled for getting downvoted:

I am referring to things such as the single word title piece ran by the Washington Post, "Irrefutable." [1] On the same day the New York Times published this [2] piece entitled "Irrefutable and Undeniable". And there were many other such pieces being run as well. It's just a tad tedious to dig up these articles now from 16 years ago. It was bad. Note in these articles the complete and absolute lack of any sort of critique or even consideration of the possibility that evidence might not hold up to scrutiny. Instead the media condemned and proclaimed with absolute certainty. That was not, is not, journalism - it is propaganda.

Consequently I find it important to always remain critical of anything that has substantial political undertones. And so I prefer to take information that both sides agree to and judge it for myself while giving the arguments a distant secondary interest. And while it may ultimately leave me drawing the wrong conclusion, I'd rather be able to justify my logic based on evidence I personally felt compelling beyond any doubt, rather than on parroting others' analysis.

I don't really understand why more people don't think this way.

[1] - https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/2003/02/06/i...

[2] - https://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/06/opinion/irrefutable-and-u...


This is a very one-sided view on the media and political environment leading up to the Iraq war, at least from my perspective in the UK. Much of the mainstream media were very much against the prospect of the war from the beginning. The claims of WMD were widely disbelieved or minimised by large parts of the media. It triggered one of the largest demonstrations/marches in recent years.

It was one of, if not THE most divisive and unpopular decision(s) the Blair government made, even at the time.


Your news media might be more honest than ours.


I respect your measured approach to evidence gathering, and growing up I resented G.W. Bush with his "You're with us or you're with the terrorists", but the more I see my peers sit on the sidelines waiting for truth to reveal itself the more I think you have to decide what you believe even with limited evidence.


The key is memory. In the moment, it isn't necessarily obvious that the Chinese Communist Party is misleading us any more than their opponents are. However, we have observed the Chinese Communist Party for decades, so we know that it is highly likely for them to lie, murder, intimidate, etc. That helps us evaluate what we're seeing at any particular time.

Eventually this sort of media analysis becomes a sort of clairvoyance. Intelligent news consumers responded to June's "Gulf of Oman" incident with questions about the "Gulf of Tonkin". Earlier, we had also questioned the official narrative about gas attacks in Syria. Now it's clear that was all bullshit too. [0] Unkillable zombie authoritarian organizations who have lied in specific ways for specific reasons before, will lie in those same ways for those same reasons again and again.

[0] https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-06-04/eminent-american-s...


The mainstream media were all, in orchestrated unison, arguing loudly for the war.

This is plainly false.

The New York Times featured e.g. then-Senator John Kerry arguing against war in Iraq: https://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/06/opinion/we-still-have-a-c...

They also had e.g. news pieces about the UN chief chemical and biological weapons inspector contradicting the US government's claims of WMDs: https://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/31/world/threats-and-respons...

This Atlantic cover story opposed war in Iraq: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/11/the-fif...

In the UK, only The Sun unequivocally supported the war, and The Daily Mirror and The Independent both strongly opposed the war: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2002/sep/25/pressandpublis...

Washington Post columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel always opposed war in Iraq, although she's a weekly columnist so I don't have the time to scroll through her archives to find a Post article, but to prove she's not like Trump (who claims to have been against the war, but actually publicly supported it before it started and didn't publicly oppose it until after it started): https://www.thenation.com/article/powell-fails-make-case/

Sure, the US mainstream media broadly supported the war and failed to challenge the government's claims, when they should have been much more skeptical. I've seen estimates that, for example, the opinion section of the Washington Post was 91% in favor of going to war. But being duped or foolish is a world apart from being coerced, as the media is in China. Can you find even a single word in a single mainstream Chinese outlet in favor of Hong Kong democratic demands? 9% is completely different from zero. It's not even comparable.


The orchestrated unison happened after Polin Cowell gave his presentation for war at the UN. As the phenomenal article from USA Today you referenced mentions, his case was hardly compelling and full of aspersions with no unquestionable evidence (which is largely because as in hindsight we can now realize - such evidence did not exist), but that didn't stop the usual suspects of the New York Times, Washington Post, etc from not only unquestionably parroting it, but actively working to try to persuade people to support the war. That is why I do not think it hyperbolic to refer to what they engaged in as propaganda.

In checking out USA Today their coverage of Hong Kong [1] today also seems remarkably level-headed in contrast again to the New York Times, Washington Post, et al - which are presenting the situation in a sensationalized and single-sided fashion. Unfortunately more tempered coverage seems to gain little to no traction, then and now.

[1] - https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/07/02/hong-ko...


I agree with you that it's not hyperbolic to call that "propaganda". Just like I don't think it's hyperbolic to call punching someone in the face "violence". That doesn't mean I think punching someone in the face is the same thing as murder. They're both violent, but they're completely, fundamentally different.

The US mainstream media and the Chinese state media both engage in propaganda, but they're completely, fundamentally different.

I have my quibbles with that USA Today article (which I actually found quite biased, presenting the views of 3 different Hong Kong or Chinese government offices but just one single protestor viewpoint). I have quibbles with NYT and WP coverage of Hong Kong too. But fundamentally, they're written with good-faith intent to inform. Though I perceived a bias in USA Today's coverage, they still did report on the woman shot in the eye by Hong Kong police with a less-lethal round. Chinese state media, by contrast, is reporting that she was hit in the eye by a fellow protestor, and even claims that "Internet sources" say she's in charge of paying protestors to demonstrate: http://m.news.cctv.com/2019/08/12/ARTIZFDwhpv8u9PFBzzWbYhP19...

That's not good-faith intent to inform. That's bad-faith intent to deceive. That's completely, fundamentally different the kind of "propaganda" that US media engages in.


The problem you have here is that this is a scenario where accurate reporting of this incident is in the interests of the US so why would you ever expect to see anything but forthright reporting? The question is what happens when accurate reporting is not in our interests? An extremely recent incident was the aid convoy in Venezuela. In a convoy sent by the US to Venezuela, one of the trucks ended up getting set on fire. All mainstream news sources in the US ran the story that Maduro forces had set the convoy on fire. Yet within a day non-US sources such as RT had published video showing that it was a protester had set the truck on fire. Indeed our media would eventually acknowledge it was all a lie, but only several weeks later. The timeline is:

February 23rd - truck set on fire. western media runs nonstop articles blaming Maduro. politicians use it as effort to try to justify war.

February 24th - RT publishes refutation clearly showing it was a protester who set the vehicle on fire [1]

February 25th - March 9th - US media and politicians continue shoving the Maduro did it fabrication.

March 10th - NYTimes acknowledges it was a protester who set the convoy on fire and very briefly runs a story as if its breaking news. [2]

Even getting back to the Iraq reporting. Our media did not just passively present what was said. They actively evangelized and argued in favor of the evidence which was always, at best, dubious. Fundamentally I think one of the major differences in our propaganda is that we're simply much better at it. Propaganda should not make most people suspect it's propaganda. Ours doesn't - theirs does.

[1] - https://www.rt.com/news/452326-venezuela-us-aid-truck-protes...

[2] - https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/10/world/americas/venezuela-...


I cannot find a single trueish words combination in your comment other than I try.

Please try harder next time.


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