China’s authorities have belatedly woken up to the news that it is not enough to just pull the plug when certain topics appear online if you want to hide the truth from the public you also need to provide an alternative story.
In the two current high profile cases currently circulating, the Bo Xilai scandal and the escape from house arrest of blind lawyer and activist Chen Guangcheng both techniques can be seen at work.
In the case of Chen the method has been to suppress information. Bejing based lawyer William Farris did a search for Chen and yielded 12 hits on Yahoo.cn, however on Yahoo.com the results were 155,000. And just to be clear the results on Yahoo.cn were all from state media.
Bo Xilain on the other hand went from being a person of high rank beyond criticism to being openly vilified on the social media and the internet. There is little doubt that this change of heart was sanctioned by the highest authority.
Though it should be kept in mind if you are going to secretly tape the top echelons of the Chinese leadership you probably have a lot worse coming than just having your reputation trashed online.
But what is of more relevant to netizens is that the facts surrounding the Bo Xilai case are becoming muddied as various politicians and others leak information and stories about him via social media on a far wider scale than ever before.
But as Rebecca McKinn0n says in the Toronto Star newspaper neither method ultimately works and that netizens find ways round both kinds of censorship. She argues it may not bring down China ruling communist party but clever and innovative netizens are ensuring a much greated degree of transparency in the country.