The impact of platform audit mechanism and government policies on “Tangping” culture

With the rise of the Internet and mobile Internet, the web has become a major source of information, but it has also led to information overload. The culture of “lying flat” (Tangping) has received attention from governments and social media platforms as a phenomenon that reflects social pressure and reflection on information oppression. This blog will explore the role of government policy and platform auditing in community culture.

What is Tangping culture?

An online community cultural activity
A photo of young Chinese on their way to work released free of copyrights under CC BY 2.0

The “Tangping” movement began in April 2021, when a Baidu post titled “Tangping is justice” went viral on Chinese social media platforms (Bandurski, 2021). The post was a declaration of abandonment, sharing lessons from the author’s two years of unemployment. It later evolved into a reflection and resistance to the pressures of modern society, which called for slowing down and pursuing simplicity and authenticity rather than mindlessly pursuing efficiency and material success (Tang & Yang, 2021).

Network community culture and “Tangping” phenomenon

The Internet as the Center of Information: From “Tangping” to Power Dynamics

This cultural phenomenon is a challenge to mainstream social values and has been subject to some policy intervention and regulation. The official State media then took a stand, and rebuttals were published. The content expressed distaste for the concept of “Tangping.” At the same time, it was made clear that, no matter what stage of development, the struggle is always the brightest colour of youth, among other slogans (Tang & Yang, 2021).

 Why “quiet quitting” was well underway in China before the rest of the world caught on by CNBC International is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It can be argued that the involvement of government policy in the culture of “Tangping” can be interpreted as an attempt to maintain a power structure that seeks to regulate and shape the public’s knowledge and values. In short, the patterns of information flow on the web have reshaped the distribution of power, allowing users to express themselves freely from a cultural, political, and economic perspective. However, the government’s power over the networked society has not disappeared but has shifted to a more insidious place.

Platform Authority and Content Diversity

When algorithms determine culture: the challenge of platform vetting and content diversity
A collection of images from social media platforms by an Irish guy named Al is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Platforms act as integrated software systems that provide the infrastructure, business models, and cultural conditions for social networking and publishing through technologies that organise participants and reconfigure reconfigurable multilateral information and communication markets (Flew et al., 2019). Platforms’ algorithms often determine what content can be recommended to more users, setting dynamic standards of visibility and invisibility.

As a result, social media platforms may censor, restrict or delete content related to subcultures that counter mainstream cultural values, either at the government’s request or at their own discretion.

On the Chinese social networking site Douban, a “Tangping” discussion group was also shut down. On Taobao, a popular online shopping platform run by tech giant Alibaba, t-shirts related to “Tangping” were removed from the shelves(Bandurski , 2021).

This shows that the platform’s operational logic and values are based on the company’s interests. However, while the original intention of platform auditing may be to maintain a healthy and safe online environment, in practice, it may threaten the diversity of online culture.

Online Communities: From Freedom of Information to Censorship Practices

Freedom of Information and Censorship: Seeking a Balance in the Culture of Online Communities

Government policies are crucial to ensuring online community culture’s legitimacy, order and social responsibility.

Such initiatives are becoming more prevalent as the debate around harmful or illegal content becomes a major international regulatory issue. Government policies can ensure legitimacy in cyberspace(Andersson J, 2017). This means that web content must align with a country or region’s laws, ethics, and public values. This legitimacy ensures that the information the public receives is accurate and beneficial, thus reducing the spread of fake news, misleading advertisements and other potentially harmful content. Social media companies cannot hide behind the claim of being merely a ‘platform’ and insist that they have no responsibility in regulating the content of their websites (Andersson J, 2017).

Facebook Worldwide Data Free Photo  by iStock is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Social media companies are beginning to be held accountable for their platforms’ content and taking steps to prevent and deal with harmful or illegal content. In February 2019, the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) Committee concluded its 16-month investigation into ‘disinformation and fake news’ with a report that satirised the social media company Facebook for operating like a ‘digital hooligan,’ displaying anti-competitive behaviour and a reckless disregard for user privacy (Pegg, 2019). This is an excellent example of the importance of government policy involvement in protecting a healthy online community culture.

Overall, government policy plays a crucial role in the formation and development of Internet community culture. It not only provides stability and clarity to the online environment but also ensures that social media companies are accountable for the content of their platforms.

The presence of platform regulation is indispensable for the culture of Internet communities

In the platform model, the flexibility of information sources and ever-expanding information stores are the basis of information management (Flew et al., 2019). The thorny issues of virulent misogyny, cyber harassment and violence, terrorism and fake news. These are reflections on the culture of free speech and community, and the policies of content auditing in conjunction with its technological regulatory regime should serve business expectations. For example, in the wake of ongoing public complaints about the negative impact of extreme misinformation about conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The content included claims that the attacks of 11 September 2001 were an “inside job” (Tucker Higgins, 2018) carried out by the US government. YouTube’s decision to remove his posted video set off a wave of deletions and account suspensions on the social media platform. Therefore, a sound and sensible regulatory system is necessary for this complex online environment.

”Bearded Alex Jones Goes On Craziest 9/11 Tangent Yet“ by The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Finding the Balance: Stable Networks and Cultural Prosperity

While many argue that government policies and platform regulation play a decisive role in maintaining legitimacy and order in online community culture, the issues of excessive censorship and freedom of expression need to be looked at. In particular, censorship is of concern when online community culture’s healthy, non-violent values conflict with those promoted by governments. Defining what is “harmful” or “illegal” is mainly subjective, and “Tangping” culture is a concrete example. In the face of such complexity, the power of the government to suppress or stifle online culture remains very much within its grasp. This is not conducive to a healthy and vibrant online community culture. In addition, the platform’s vetting mechanism can filter out harmful content. However, according to the logic of platforms operating in the interests of corporations, they cannot assume the responsibility of fairness and freedom in the face of the complexity and depth of social, cultural and political issues such as “Tangping” culture.

Algorithms and technology can be employed to suppress important and meaningful discussion and content. In sum, while government policies and platform regulation can benefit Internet communities’ culture in some ways, they can also be tools to limit freedom of expression and diversity of thought. These policies must be carefully weighed in their development and implementation to ensure they do not undermine the core values of online culture.

Current problems and prospects for the future

The Internet has not only redefined the boundaries of information but also profoundly influenced the way of information consumption and cultural concepts of human beings. In the face of information overload, subcultures like ” Tangping” have emerged as reflections and protests of modern pressures and information oppression. However, external censorship and intervention mechanisms gradually surfaced when this cultural phenomenon began to affect mainstream society. Government policy and platform censorship, two major forces that ensure a healthy and orderly online environment, may also impose restrictions on freedom of expression and cultural diversity. Balancing the stability of the online environment with the vibrant and accessible development of community culture is an issue that needs to be addressed.


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