Ohio State Navbar

The Ohio State University

Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Events Calendar

Citizenship Speaker Series
Download as iCal file
Gary King
Reverse-Engineering Censorship in China
Thursday, October 22, 2015, 03:30pm - 05:00pm
Mershon Center for International Security Studies
1501 Neil Ave. Columbus, OH | Room 120 43201


See photos from this event

Gary King

Gary King is the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard University, one of 24 with the title of University Professor, Harvard's most distinguished faculty position. He is based in the Department of Government (in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences) and serves as director of the Institute for Qualitative Social Science. King develops and applies empirical methods in many areas of social science research, focusing innovations that span the range from statistical theory to practical application.

King is an elected fellow in eight honorary societies and has won more than 40 "best of" awards for his work. His more than 150 journal articles, 20 open source software packages, and eight books span most aspects of political methodology, many fields of political science, and several other scholarly disciplines.

King's work is widely read across scholarly fields beyond academia. He was listed as the most cited political scientist of his cohort; among the group "political scientists who have made the most important theoretical contributions" to the discipline "from its beginnings in the late 19th century to the present"; and on the International Statistical Institute's list of the most highly cited researchers across the social sciences.

His work on legislative redistricting has been used in most American states by legislators, judges, lawyers, political parties, minority groups, and private citizens, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court. His work on inferring individual behavior from aggregate data has been used in as many states by these groups, and in many other practical contexts. His contributions to methods for achieving cross-cultural comparability in survey research have been used in surveys in over 80 countries by researchers, governments, and private concerns. King led an evaluation of Mexican universal health insurance program, which included the largest randomized health policy experiment to date. The statistical methods and software he develops are used extensively in academic, government, and private industry.

King is a founder, and an inventor of the original technology for, Learning Catalytics and Crimson Hexagon, among others. King has had many students and post docs who now hold faculty positions at leading universities and companies. He has collaborated with more than 150 scholars, including many of his students, on research for publications, and has served on more than 30 editorial boards.

King received a bachelors from SUNY New Paltz (1980) and a doctorate from University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984).  His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, National Institute on Aging, Global Forum for Health Research, and centers, corporations, foundations and federal agencies.


Chinese government censorship of social media constitutes the largest selective suppression of human communication in recorded history. In three ways, we show, paradoxically, that this large system also leaves large footprints that reveal a great deal about itself and the intentions of the government. First is an observational study where we download all social media posts before the Chinese government can read and censor those they deem objectionable, and then detect from a network of computers all over the world which are censored.

Second, we conduct a large scale randomized experiment by creating accounts on numerous social media sites spread throughout the country, submitting different randomly assigned types of social media texts, and then detecting which types are censored. And finally, we supplement the current approach of conducting uncertain (and potentially unsafe) confidential interviews with insiders via participant observation by setting up our own social media site in China, contracting with Chinese firms to install the same censoring technologies as existing sites, and -- with direct access to their software, documentation, and even customer service help desk support -- reverse engineering how it all works.

Our results demonstrate, contrary to prior understandings, that criticism of the state, its leaders, and their policies are routinely published whereas posts with collective action potential are much more likely to be censored (regardless of whether they are for or against the state). We are also able to clarify the internal mechanisms of the Chinese censorship apparatus, and show how changes in censorship behavior reveal government intent by presaging their action on the ground. This talk is based on two papers, joint with Jennifer Pan and Margaret Roberts, available at http://j.mp/ChinaExp and http://j.mp/ChinaObs.


JEvents v3.4.43 Stable   Copyright © 2006-2017