Assessment 3 · Breastfeeding · Online Communities · Social Media Communication

The imperative of promoting media literacy education

Name: Lizhang Wang

SID: 460440891

Thursday 12:00-15:00


In today’s era, network new media are ubiquitous. Acquiring massive amounts of information through new media not only facilitates faster understanding of the objective world, but also promotes changes in people’s ways of communication as well as facilitates the satisfaction of spiritual needs. However, while the new media provide convenience, it is accompanied by a large amount of spam messages and false information passed on to people, thus causing people to make erroneous judgments. At this time, individuals need to think critically about the information that comes pouring in through their own cognitive abilities and media literacy. This leads to new media literacy.


The new media literacy is different from what we used to say as media literacy. ScreenShot2013-07-29at10.41.09PMIt is the use of citizens’ judgments on new media on the Internet that were born and developed under the social network, internet network, and mobile network revolution. New media literacy requires individuals to be able to understand, sort through and analyze the information they were bombarded with daily. In other words, traditional media literacy skills of merely being able to read and write is not enough in a world saturated by new media.

Now, one of the problems faced by new media on the Internet is that the speed of development and progress of network new media is significantly higher than that of citizens’ media literacy, and the development of the two is not synchronized. Silverblatt (1995) pointed out that process, context, framework and production values are the four main aspects of message interpretation in media literacy. From his point of view, people who are media literate are supposed to be aware of media impact on individuals and the society; understand the processes of mass communication; analyze media messages through critical approaches; have awareness of media content in terms of text, sound and images; explore cultural and social constructions as well as enhance the enjoyment and appreciation of media.

Information explosion is an important feature of the era of Web 2.0. The advent of self-media on social networks has made the boundaries between news producers and consumers less obvious. Therefore, everyone can be a journalist by uploading materials on social network platforms, which makes information overload. However, according to J.H (2018), the credibility of information is in doubt because people who post information on social networks probably do not follow the code of ethics like professional journalists. It should be noted that the public lacks the ability to question what you are reading of media information online. Now many media are trying to attract attention and deliberately exaggerate certain aspects of news information which causes content to be distorted. Obviously, there are many audiences believe that information is true. To avoid this from happening, the public need to be more discerning than ever in order not to be deceived.


Case study: the death of Wei Zexi

On April 12, 2016, Wei Zexi, a 21-year-old student at Xidian University, died of synovial sarcoma after receiving experimental treatment at the Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps, which he learned of from a promoted result on the Chinese search engine Baidu.According to Wei Zexi’s father, by September 2015, Wei Zexi had received four immunotherapy treatments in that hospital, which cost more than 200,000 yuan, but did not achieve the desired effect. Later Wei learned that the technology used in the treatment had been long stopped in the United States.Before his death, Wei’s post on the Chinese question-and-answer website Zhihu had been widely circulated. He accused China’s largest search engine Baidu of its advertising practice. Both the government and its citizens in China criticized Baidu because the top-ranked hospital appeared on search results is a paid advertisement.

图片 ddd1.png

Around May 10th, the Cyberspace Administration of China concluded that Baidu is responsible for Wei Zexi’s death because of its misleading medical information. On that matter, the Cyberspace Administration has demanded Baidu to make the following adjustments: recognize and clean up the commercial promotion service for the healthcare industry that might bring prominent impact on people’s health; change the bidding mechanism for ranking, excluding money from the factors that determine the ranking of organizations.


The bidding mechanism for ranking is the business model through which Baidu’s search service makes profit and it is the main source of Baidu search’s income. According to estimates from analysts, advertising of the healthcare industry accounts for 20% to 30% of Baidu search’s business income while the search service accounts for 80% of Baidu’s total income.

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  (Baidu Branding)

According to MIT Press (2016), information accuracy issues have been addressed by search engines along with advocacy groups and other organizations. For example, health information provided on Google are verified in clearly delineated boxes. Websites that contain useful and reliable medical knowledge are required to be certificated by the Health on the Net Foundation.Although these efforts may not level up individuals’ media literacy, they will provide people with accurate and reliable information.

 In my opinion, Baidu should take the major responsibility of the scandal. First, it had precedents to allow Putian Group, the involved private hospital group from Fujian Province, to buy control of Baidu Tieba, one of the largest and easily-accessible forums in China, for commercial operation. Second, Baidu scandals have been revealed frequently, such as requesting customers to bid for ad rankings, deliberately allowing its employees to cater for customers to allow apparent wrongful actions. This one is simply a trigger, igniting accumulated anger, which was not expressed simply because Baidu deliberately delete those news. Third, since Google’s exit from China, Baidu is undoubtedly the largest search engine company in China. As such a big company, definitely should take a certain social responsibility, but obviously it is not satisfactory for Baidu in this respect. “Baidu Promotion” is another business of Baidu, glutted with many false advertisements, like the screenshot below. Baidu is largely supported by Chinese government while have lots of frauds on its site. 


 (A disease search results on Baidu)

For the medical advertising information of the internet bidding, in September 1, 2016, the Interim Measures for the management of Internet advertising began to go into practice in China, and the payment search and sale of goods or services were defined as advertisements. This also completely incorporated the bidding model of medical information into the supervision of medical advertising.However, in the past two years in the event of Wei Zexi, there are still various irregularities in the medical information of competitive bidding. Experts suggest that in addition to supervision to continue to land, ordinary patients should also truly improve their media literacy, bright eyes can let such ads lose space.

MIT Press (2016) pointed out that, it is critically important for us to realize that what we are searching for, search engine algorithms, and information available on the Internet, altogether influence the search results. We should treat the information wisely, especially when it relates to our health problems.


The promotion of citizen’s media literacy is not only the efforts of the citizens themselves, but also requires the help of network operators and the government. Only a good collaboration between the three parties can effectively promote individuals’ media literacy. According to J (2016), media literacy teaches that information and images are built on a variety of goals, and everyone has the responsibility to assess and interpret these media information. The creator and disseminator of mass communication may be individuals, businesses, governments, or organizations, but the receiver of it is always an individual. Education, life experience, and a multitude of other factors allow each person to interpret constructed media in their own ways; there is no right or wrong answer with regard to how to read the media content. However, media literacy is an essential skill for us because in a media-rich environment it enables us to be “better democratic citizens, smarter shoppers, and more skeptical media consumers” (J, 2016).


Lule, J. (2016). Understanding media and culture: An introduction to mass communication. University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing.

Lipschultz, J. H. (2014). Social media communication: Concepts, practices, data, law and ethics. Routledge.

MIT Press. (2016, May 11). Cancer and the internet: The strange, sad case of Wei Zexi. Retrieved from

Death of Wei Zexi. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 28, 2018 from

Maniac. (2018, April 23). Internet medical advertising enforcement difficulties: experts recommend strengthening mobile terminal management. Retrieved from

TMTPost. (2016, June 28). The Wei Zexi Incident Has Cost Baidu 2 Billion RMB In Three Months And It’s Not Over Yet. Retrieved from


Assessment 3 · Breastfeeding · Online Communities · Social Media Communication

Online Communities: Milking Mommas

Four years ago, a small group of mothers attended a breastfeeding counsellor’s training in the Philippines. They wanted to share what they learned to other mothers through the internet, so they created a Facebook group called “Breastfeeding Pinays” (Breastfeeding Filipinas).

Unexpectedly, their simple idea which only had 200 members during the first 24 hours from its creation, already grew to an online community with 154, 948 members at present.

It is now composed of mothers, fathers, doctors, midwives, nurses, lactation counsellors and other health professionals.

Within the group, members exchange questions, advices, tips and guidelines about breastfeeding. It categorizes its information through albums that are dedicated to different subjects, such as a compilation of photo instructions on how to achieve a proper latch, or videos on how to cup-feed expressed breastmilk. Members are encouraged to contribute photos or videos to the group’s albums based on their categories.

unang yakap
Members upload photos to the group’s album entitled “Unang Yakap” or “First Embrace”

The group has become so popular in the Philippines, that it has been featured in several articles and television shows—even celebrities joined the group.

Breastfeeding Pinays is an example of a successful online community, where netizens are gathered by shared interests and goals through a social networking site.

Academic Research on Online Communities

Hinton and Hjorth (2013) discussed communities in social media by looking into how online interactions take place and the structures used in these connections.

They digged into the history of online community studies, by pointing out how it was popularized by Howard Rheingold in 1993, when he discussed about an early online community called the WELL (Whole Earth Lectronic Link). This sparked a discussion about the topic both in the media and in academic discussions.

Some scholars saw online communities as socially isolating, as they promoted escapism and removed users from reality and social connections (Wellman & Gullia, 1999, cited in Hinton and Hjorth, 2013, p.37). For others, these communities generated public discussion and democratic participation, making the internet a powerful medium.

Further research into online communities examined the role of offline relationships in communication. Internet studies underwent an ‘ethnographic shift,’ as real-world settings influenced online communication.

In Daniel Miller and Don Slater’s (2001) study on how Trinidadians used the internet, they discovered the important role of the geographical place and the offline social world of users. Their findings showed that being Trinidadian influenced how and why people in Trinidad went online (Miller and Slater, 2001, cited in Hinton and Hjorth 2013, p.39).

This is true for Breastfeeding Pinays where most members are Filipinos living in the Philippines who share the same language and cultural practices. In the group, new members are added because of an invitation or recommendation of an existing member. In most cases, the new member and existing member are both offline friends or acquaintances.

The factor of geographical place, however, has been challenged by scholars such as Manuell Castells and Barry Wellman, who argue that social ties are maintained through internet use despite proximity. People create and maintain relationships because of shared interests and knowledge, even if they have never met in real life. Although these relationships are not strong, Castells points out that they are still important. This is demonstrated by Clay Shirky’s (2008) example of how a lost Motorola Razr phone was recovered through the efforts of an online community.

In the case of Breastfeeding Pinays, overseas mothers, including myself, have joined the group because of our common goal to exclusively breastfeed.

Personally, I feel a special connection to the members of the group despite our distance, and participating in the discussions give me the feeling of a casual conversation with fellow mothers back home.

This kind of connection over distance distinguishes online networks from online communities. An example of the former would be joining a Facebook group of one’s grade school alma mater where offline relationships have already been established and communication only takes place when called for.

With online communities such as Breastfeeding Pinays, connections are created even by people who do not know each other in real life, because of a shared interest that maintains these online relationships. In a community, a collective will is aimed through individual efforts (Tönnies, 2009), and social capital plays a key role in its creation and maintenance (Hinton and Hjorth, 2013, p.42).

The concept of social capital was introduced by Bourdieu (1984 [1979]), who pointed out that the three important kinds of capital that influenced individuals’ tastes were cultural, social and economic.

This can be applied with the chosen example, as one’s choice to commit to exclusive breastfeeding and thus join an online breastfeeding group, can be influenced by one’s upbringing, connections, and economic conditions. These kinds of capitals are important in sustaining the online community.

Rules Governing Online Communities

Park (2011) notes that there are three conditions for a community to exist, namely, membership, expression, and personal connection. I would like to elaborate on the first as it is interesting to note that for memberships to be retained in an online community, established rules should be followed.

For example, the administrators of Breastfeeding Pinays have always emphasized their set of rules within the group. These include the prohibition of textspeak, the posting of advertisements, or the promotion of the use of artificial nipples. Violators are reprimanded and some are even removed from the group.

Group administrators always remind members of the rules governing their online community

Kiesler S. et al. (2012) in their book, “Building Successful Online Communities,” point out that rules and procedures play an important part in regulating non-normative behaviour in online communities. They note that social norms are usually violated by newcomers, which is why in the case of Breastfeeding Pinays, administrators immediately send new members a copy of the forum’s rules and files upon admission to the group.

When violations become rampant in the group discussion, the list of rules are posted again in the thread and inappropriate posts are deleted.

Kraut R. et al. (2012) also note that there are online users who purposely damage online communities such as trolls, manipulators and spammers.

Trolls gain satisfaction from disrupting communities, so the authors propose that the best way to limit their activity is to ignore them. Manipulators on the other hand, use multiple “shill” accounts to get communities to produce particular outcomes such as in the case of websites like Yelp or TripAdvisor—therefore, posts from suspected manipulators should be filtered out. Meanwhile, a mechanism has been developed by blog platforms to help lessen spammers, by automatically including the rel=nofollow attribute in links embedded in the comments, to prevent search engines from trusting these links (Kraut R. et al., 2012).

The Impact of Online Communities and How they Mobilize the Offline World

I suggest the expansion of the study of online communities by including how they affect online normative behaviour outside their private group. For example, Breastfeeding Pinays has always encouraged its members to post “brelfies” or breastfeeding selfies on their personal social media accounts, not only to encourage breastfeeding but to normalize it as well. The group also endorsed the “Tree of Life” campaign, where brelfies are edited using an application to include tree branches in the picture. This has been an instant trend among the group’s members.

tree of life
Uploaded Tree of Life Brelfies of Group Members

Initiatives by Breastfeeding Pinays and similar online groups have helped lessen the stigma attached to uncensored pictures of babies feeding on the breast that are posted in social networking sites. In fact, in 2015, Facebook changed its policy and removed its ban on breastfeeding photos after years of censoring.

Furthermore, studies show that digital communication technologies mobilize individuals who aim for common goals whether civic or non-civic (Bimer et al., 2012; Earl and Kimport, 2011; Rheingold, 2002). This has been proven by Seo, H. et al. (2014), in their case study on how social media facilitated flash mobs among teenagers.

Online communities also enable mobilization in the offline world by providing a forum to organize activities in line with their objectives.

In Breastfeeding Pinays, different events are brought together such as seminars and counsellor trainings. Breastmilk sharing is even done through requests and donations mentioned in the community discussions by mothers who have never met in real life before.

One of the organized events of Breastfeeding Pinays where group members feed their children together in public

Application to our Social Media Campaign

The concept of how online communities connect people with shared interests or objectives in spite of distance was applied in the social media campaign we made for #BetheFilter.

Our strategy revolved around the idea of ambassadorship, which aimed to create as many volunteer campaign ambassadors as possible, who will vow to use social media responsibly in terms of news consumption in their social media accounts. It seeks to create an online community among all netizens across borders, with the common belief in the importance of responsible social media use.

Once a successful community of campaign ambassadors is achieved, the strategy aims to spread its influence and make critical thinking part of normative behaviour among internet users in social networking sites.


This essay aimed to examine how online communities are created and maintained through a case study on a popular Facebook group in the Philippines, Breastfeeding Pinays. It first traced Hinton and Hjorth’s (2013) discussion of how academic researchers dissected the concept—wherein some argue that online communities promote escapism, while others contest that they provide a platform for democratic participation. Second, this paper highlighted how offline relationships help in the creation of online communities; however, it is not considered a requirement since online relationships foster in these communities even if the members have not met in real life, as long as there are shared interests and goals. Third, it looked into how rules regulate non-normative behaviour in these communities. Lastly, it challenged to expand the research on the study to include the impact of online communities on normative behaviour outside their private group and how these mobilize individuals to achieve its goals in the offline setting. It will be interesting to see how online communities will foster in the coming years as current social networking sites will soon lose their popularity, and new web portals will emerge into the picture.