Words Essay Assignment

Words Essay Assignment

Words Essay Assignment


Examining the case study on the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests helps unpack the various ways in which big data affects democratic processes. The protests comprised a series of demonstrations held in Hong Kong against the new Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance legislation. The Bill had been articulated in response to a murderer who had fled to Hong Kong from Taiwan but could not be extradited due to the lack of repatriation agreements between the two jurisdictions. Opponents of the Bill fear that it would place Hong Kong visitors and residents under the control of the Communist Party of China. From a political perspective, narrowcasting and micro-targeting would not have been possible without big data. As such, big data has had a significant impact on the democratic development of Hong Kong. However, big data’s increasing intervention in the democratic process raises several ethical concerns that undermine racial identity and equality, for instance, the loss of privacy and a possible threat to democracy. Therefore, it is important to examine the relationship between digital media and democracy using the Hong Kong case study.

The impact of Big Data on Democracy

The social media internet culture shapes most of the democratic processes taking place across the world. The emerging role of big data is evidenced by the political campaigns held in Hong Kong. The protests against the extradition bill are among the most defining moments for China’s democracy as they reveal the future of political protests. The demonstrations held in Hong Kong leveraged some of the latest techniques of online advertising and marketing. Online activism was the primary avenue used by protesters to gain traction for demonstrations and brainstorm ideas (Rød and Weidmann, 2015, p. 338). Online advertising targeted people based on their detailed profiles. For example, young people would get links showing them when and where protests would be or how to conduct vigils while conservative anti-extradition bill memes targeted the elderly to ensure they understood the anti-extradition rationale. As such, the internet culture plays a central role in shaping democratic processes today.

Micro-targeting and narrowcasting were common throughout the protests. The protesters also leveraged encrypted messages sent through the Telegram app to communicate. The approach was effective because they could easily create messages using automated technologies that appealed to specific individuals without the risk of being tracked by the Hong Kong Police Force and the Chinese government. However, the concept of capturing and storing users’ data and their behaviours to send personalized messages raises major ethical issues that undermine the principles of democratic process (Gerschewski and Dukalskis, 2018, p. 12). Firstly, a lack of privacy can harm users, especially when they are unable to stop others from accessing their data. For example, some protesters had created a website that disclosed personal data of police officers deployed to control the crowds, which forced the authorities to reassign them due to safety concerns. Secondly, the worst possible outcome attributed to the ethical misuse of big data involves the loss of democracy (Floridi and Taddeo, 2016, p. 156 and Crawford, Gray, and Miltner, 2014, p.10). Hong Kong and China are examples of data-controlled societies. Although data collection programs have been initiated in both regions to protect citizens from terrorism, it is now widely used to influence policies and markets. For example, China uses its big data to construct a citizen score to determine eligibility for employment, travel visas, and loans. Consequently, the encrypted messages sent through Telegram apps demonstrate that microtargeting and narrowcasting were effective throughout the protests.

Data mining in Hong Kong is not as rampant as it is in Mainland China. However, the recent leak of surveillance programs during the Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests suggests that the region’s technological capabilities have grown. While the data is harmless, the manner in which people harness it raises ethical concerns. Gerbaudo (2018, p. 745) notes that the ever-growing scope of big data presents novel challenges which the current approaches to privacy self-management cannot adequately deal with. Therefore, failure to address the emerging ethical issues can undermine democratic processes depending on the independence and impartiality of people and systems.

Unlike digital marketing, traditional advertising methods are more likely to be more expensive. As such, it was more effective for the protesters in Hong Kong to utilize online platforms rather than traditional media. Freedman (2018, p. 604) adds that traditional advertising methods have little prospects of interaction with marketing materials. Finally, it is more difficult to measure the effects of a traditional advertising campaign. On the contrary, marketers can track the success of the campaign while using digital methods. The success of big data is contingent on the same digital platforms used to reinforce online marketing (Mittelstadt and Floridi, 2016, p. 303; O’Leary, 2016, p. 189). Compared to traditional advertising, digital marketing methods deliver the message across a wider audience and are more affordable.

The Internet and Identity development

One of the prevailing theoretical perspective held is that the internet provides a platform for identity construction and community formation around racial and ethnic identity. Hong Kong enjoys the reputation of being a global city despite being predominantly Chinese. The multi-cultural environment raises key issues regarding racial and ethnic identity, especially among the 300,000 ethnic minorities that include Africans, Indians, Nepalese, Filipinos, and Mexicans among others. The racial and ethnic tensions have reduced significantly in the region as people unite against the government. However, such unity would not have been possible without the Internet. Therefore, cyber space plays a central role in providing a platform for identity construction and community formation around racial and ethnic identity.

Racial and ethnic social constructs evolves in one context while changing in another. The Internet has grown to be the primary carrier of these identities across the world. However, digital systems are already challenging the existing political and social structures, a trend expected to continue into the future. Theoretical studies in digital technologies and ethnic identities help in developing an in-depth understanding of the relationship between the two and the possible impacts they have on each other. Daniels (2013, p. 695) argues that ethnic identities are a form of self-organization for cultural groups as evidenced by the immigrants in Hong Kong. Their cultural identities provide the organizing principles used to cope with the underlying circumstances of the host country. One of the primary implications for the rise of the Internet is that it has become the primary carrier of these cultural identities across the world. There are three primary categories that highlight the dynamics and persistence of ethnicity in the Internet. They include ethnicity in newsgroups, ethnicity and the World Wide Web, and ethnicity, resistance, and information technology. Firstly, the discussions held in the newsgroups forums are the simplest forms of ethnicity on the Internet. Unlike other social media platforms, news forums are primarily concerned with political, social, and regional issues across the world. Nearly all the debates relating to experiences that occur outside the cyberspace. The popularity of these forums during the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests suggests that more people now view the internet as a platform for identity construction. The trend springs from the opportunity to send and receive unsecured messages in a virtual marketplace. While most of the debates are redundant and discordant, the high level of participation highlights the significance of the issues disused by the people involved. Therefore, the discussions conducted on online newsgroups provide the platform necessary to reinforce users’ ethnicity and identities over the Internet.

Information passed over the internet is often presented as it is rather than discussed. Moreover, the relationship between racial and ethnic identities is contingent on how information is consumed in the World Wide Web. As such, new ways of self-representation and marketing emerge without the restrictions imposed by regulations and laws. Consequently, identities are reshaped as users seek novel ways of achieving self-determination. The primary consequences for relying on the internet for identity construction and community formation include the distortion and manipulation of information. For example, during the protests, the home page for the Hong Kong government gave the impression that the metropolis was for a family vacation and making business arrangements but ignored the civil unrest accompanied by extrajudicial killings. The homepage also fails to provide any information about the various groups living in the city. Instead, it provides numerous links to Asian-oriented servers that mirror the situation of power and in Hong Kong. Therefore, people are more likely to consume online information without conducting the due diligence necessary to ascertain whether it is factual or artifice.

Relying on only one home page for a group becomes necessary because it ensures elites do not manipulate racial and ethnic representations in the digital space for personal gains. The privileged techno-elites have the capacity to construct and shape identities of different ethnic groups over the internet since online representations are based on concealed agendas such as raising funds or seeking international support for political agendas. Consequently, the chances of self-determination are relatively skewed due to the global distribution of the internet as well as the people who use it. As such, immigrants in Hong Kong usually depict themselves and their country of origin differently compared to the people that have lived in these countries, particularly second and third-generation immigrants living in the city. Therefore, working with information over the Internet becomes more difficult since the intention of the author is never clear. Under these conditions, having more than one home page for a group becomes necessary because it ensures elites do not manipulate racial and ethnic representations in the digital space for personal gains. Individuals and groups are likely to face persecution, discrimination, or restrictions of self-determination due to their ethnic identity. As such, racial and ethnic identities are often used as the primary organizing principles in online conflicts. Lenette (2016, p. 123) adds that ethnicity provides the basis for preventing members from gaining access to new technologies, especially when the exclusions concentrate on minority groups within society. For example, in Hong Kong, the African minority groups find it harder to access technology-related jobs due to racial profiling. As such, a racial embodiment may be understood in the context of the internet’s visual culture. Despite the Internet being the primary agent for globalization, it provides a platform for racial stereotypes to thrive, especially against minority groups. Most of these stereotypes are meant to advance an individuals’ or a groups’ political agendas by falsely representing them in digital platforms.


The prevailing theoretical perspective is that cyberspace creates an opportunity for people to develop their identities. As such, it plays an essential role in constructing communities around racial and ethnic identities. Despite Hong Kong being an international city, its multi-cultural setting raises key issues regarding racial and ethnic identity that undermine the ethnic minorities. However, these tensions have reduced significantly as people unite against the government during the protests. The analysis conducted on the series of demonstrations held in Hong Kong against the new Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance legislation suggests that big data supported the narrowcasting and micro-targeting strategies employed throughout the protests. The primary argument advanced supports the claims about the internet being a platform for identity construction and community formation around racial and ethnic identity. The cyberspace also provides technology elites with an opportunity of racial embodiment. As such, the visual culture of the Internet not only complicates how race is represented but also reinforces stereotypes, especially those with a political agenda.


Crawford, K., Gray, M.L. and Miltner, K., 2014. Big Data| critiquing Big Data: Politics, ethics, epistemology| special section introduction. International Journal of Communication8, p.10.

Daniels, J., 2013. Race and racism in Internet studies: A review and critique. New Media & Society15(5), pp.695-719.

Floridi, L. and Taddeo, M., 2016. What is data ethics? Retrieved from https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsta.2016.0360

Freedman, D., 2018. Populism and media policy failure. European Journal of Communication33(6), pp.604-618.

Gerbaudo, P., 2018. Social media and populism: an elective affinity?. Media, Culture & Society40(5), pp.745-753.

Gerschewski, J. and Dukalskis, A., 2018. How the internet can reinforce authoritarian regimes: The case of North Korea. Georgetown Journal of International Affairs19, pp.12-19.

Lenette, C., 2016, March. Writing with light: An iconographic-iconologic approach to refugee photography. In Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research (Vol. 17, No. 2).

Mittelstadt, B.D. and Floridi, L., 2016. The ethics of big data: current and foreseeable issues in biomedical contexts. Science and engineering ethics22(2), pp.303-341.

O’Leary, D.E., 2016. Ethics for big data and analytics. IEEE Intelligent Systems31(4), pp.81-84.

Rød, E.G. and Weidmann, N.B., 2015. Empowering activists or autocrats? The Internet in authoritarian regimes. Journal of Peace Research52(3), pp.338-351.


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