Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Michael Anti Thinks My Data Are Fake!

After finishing my presentation at the Chinese Internet Research Conference, it was time for questions and answers. What soon followed was a brief brush/encounter with a global Internet celebrity. Here's how it unfolded...

A young guy in the front row asked me a very pointed question. Actually, it was more of a statement than a question. And it was a good one...

"How do we know that the government did not delete any comments that were opposed to the health care reform plan? [My paper was an analysis of online comments that were submitted by individuals on the Chinese central government's health care proposal.] If negative comments were deleted, then the results of your analysis are all fake."

Like I said, a great point, especially when dealing with a government known worldwide for its Internet censorship. Before it was my turn to respond, the panel moderator noted to the audience that the comment had come from none other than Michael Anti.

Who is Michael Anti? Michael Anti is a Chinese blogger and journalist who became famous around the world when Microsoft, presumably at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party, deleted his blog in 2005. Since that time, Michael Anti has continued to press his case for freedom of the press here in China and the need for professional journalistic standards.

All of a sudden realizing who my critic was, I decided to take a fairly aggressive approach in constructing my response, more aggressive than I normally would be at an academic meeting. Using phrases like, "Let me give you another reason why we should note throw my data out," I tried to mount a vigorous defense of the work.

In the end, Michael Anti's point was a valid one that deserves some mention in the paper. And so the Chinese Internet Research Conference has definitely been a productive, if unusually contentious, meeting for this wayward American scholar.

Thanks Michael Anti!

~Steve

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