Name: Lizhang Wang
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. It 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.
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.
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 fromhttps://mitpress.mit.edu/blog/cancer-and-internet-strange-sad-case-wei-zexi
Death of Wei Zexi. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 28, 2018 fromhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Wei_Zexi
Maniac. (2018, April 23). Internet medical advertising enforcement difficulties: experts recommend strengthening mobile terminal management. Retrieved fromhttps://www.waonews.com/news/16241-Internet_medical_advertising_enforcement_difficulties_experts_recommend_strengthening_mobile_terminal_management.html
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 https://medium.com/@TMTpost/the-wei-zexi-incident-has-cost-baidu-2-billion-rmb-in-three-months-and-its-not-over-yet-tmtpost-3f6657f59815