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How We Express Ourselves Freely: Censorship, Self-censorship, and Anti-censorship on a Chinese Social Media

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS,volume 13972)


Censorship, anti-censorship, and self-censorship in an authoritarian regime have been extensively studies, yet the relationship between these intertwined factors is not well understood. In this paper, we report results of a large-scale survey study (\(N=526\)) with Sina Weibo users toward bridging this research gap. Through descriptive statistics, correlation analysis, and regression analysis, we uncover how users are being censored, how and why they conduct self-censorship on different topics and in different scenarios (i.e., post, repost, and comment), and their various anti-censorship strategies. We further identify the metrics of censorship and self-censorship, find the influence factors, and construct a mediation model to measure their relationship. Based on these findings, we discuss implications for democratic social media design and future censorship research.


  • Social media
  • Censorship
  • Self-censorship
  • Anti-censorship
  • Mediation model

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We would like to thank the respondents who contributed to the survey data, and those who helped us distribute the survey. We also thank the anonymous reviewers for their good words and insightful feedback. We further thank Yifei Wang, Chuanli Xia, Zijie Shao, among many others, who provided useful feedback in the early stage of the study.

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Correspondence to Zhixuan Zhou .

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Chen, X., Xie, J., Wang, Z., Shen, B., Zhou, Z. (2023). How We Express Ourselves Freely: Censorship, Self-censorship, and Anti-censorship on a Chinese Social Media. In: Sserwanga, I., et al. Information for a Better World: Normality, Virtuality, Physicality, Inclusivity. iConference 2023. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 13972. Springer, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-031-28031-3

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