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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora