News / Asia

    Q&A with Dale Rutstein: UNICEF and Social Media in China

    Frances Alonzo
    UNICEF in China focuses on keeping child rights at the top of the national agenda. What the organization has found out is that China could be an unlikely example of how social media can be used for child rights advocacy.  Since 2011, UNICEF in China has diverted all of its communication resources to its website and social media. UNICEF's Dale Rutstein  spoke to VOA's Frances Alonzo about his experiences with social media in China and how discussions on child rights ripple across the country's social media communities in a way that protects the country's most precious asset: its children.
     
    RUTSTEIN: China is one of the most microblog-obsessed countries in the world. In 2012, there were about 1.3 billion people and about 3 billion microblogs in China. And they don’t have Twitter and Facebook, they have Tencent and SINA Weibo.  And they have another really new interesting platform called WeiXin (WeChat), which is like WhatsApp but if you could post sort of newsfeed and posts and photos and so on  to your WhatsApp friends. The trending topics very often are children because many families in China only have one child. An organization like UNICEF begins to become very valuable for people who are online talking about children’s issues. 
     
    ALONZO: You mention in your blog campaigns to reunite “abducted” children, and there were photos of street children that were posted. Tell me about that.
     
    RUTSTEIN: Some well-meaning non-profit organizations and academic experts thought up a campaign to connect abducted or trafficked children with their parents. The idea was to encourage the general public to post pictures of children they thought were street children or children at risk. And a lot of people were getting excited about it. But some people were a bit worried and many people in the blogosphere were saying what does UNICEF say?  What does the convention on the Rights of the Child say about doing this kind of thing?
     
    We immediately realized that with good intentions a lot of children were being put at risk because those who are looking to exploit children are looking for children who are deprived of effective parental care. If you are putting up pictures of vulnerable children, you are in effect putting up a billboard for child abusers and child exploiters. 
     
    We started posting very actively to say that photographs of vulnerable children should not be posted publicly. This is both a violation of children’s privacy and it could also invite more harm than good. You are actually putting children at greater risk. Some of the people who were promoting this campaign were offended. But in the end, the blogosphere weighed in and rallied to the point of view that we were putting forth which is really informed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the whole idea that sharing the identity of vulnerable children and children who have been abused is [violating] a fundamental principal of protecting children. You don’t broadcast those things.
     
    ALONZO:  How many followers does UNICEF China have now?
     
    RUTSTEIN: We are active in three social media platforms. The first is what’s called SINA Weibo, and we have about 250,000 followers there. And then there is another microblog which is called Tencent Weibo. And there we have close to three million followers. And then a new platform that I mentioned WeiXin or WeChat. There we have about three or four thousand followers.
     
    ALONZO:  Are these censored by the Chinese government?
     
    RUTSTEIN: Of course there are a few things that really get censored or that don’t last very long.  We now know the technology, even that’s used in America by the NSA, is very good at picking up certain key words. China also has that same technology.  And certain things that the government doesn’t approve of do get picked up and they are censored.  But they aren’t a very long list of things. They are really only one, two or three things that are censored.
     
    The openness and the vitality and the critical bent of a lot of speech in China’s social media are surprisingly wide open. It goes really directly against the conventional wisdom about China. If you want to turn on the official television, or read the official newspaper, you’ll get the party line. But if you really want to get raw, unvarnished facts and information and different opinions and views, you immediately go to social media. And hundreds of millions of people in China are doing that. That’s really where they go first.
     
    ALONZO: With that information now, is this changing the way you communicate and send out information to the public?
     
    RUTSTEIN: Absolutely. TV, radio, print: these are huge big state organs in China and they’re also now run on a commercial basis and they are very expensive.  And organizations like UNICEF don’t have the resources to buy media. The public with disposable income in China makes it a very lucrative media market. So everyone in the world is trying to advertise to that market.
     
    We are now really putting most of our effort and thought into social media. With three million followers, it’s not hard at all to generate a discussion that reaches 100,000 or 200,000 people from day to day.  And that is very exciting.  And we know who we are reaching. And it’s not just a one way broadcast now, of course. The reason why social is so powerful is because you are involved in a discussion. It’s not a one-way channel.

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora