Information Controls Fellow

Sam is an experienced think tank researcher and Sinologist. Sam explores the digital politics enacted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and their socio-economic ramifications. Sam has worked on China’s platform and tech-regulation, human rights implications linked to surveillance technology, public opinion control and interference, as well as internet governance, cybersecurity, and issues related to cyber and digital sovereignty. 

The project: The Great Firewall of China has adopted new features. Chinese social media platforms increasingly deploy new access barriers that can exclude entire countries. These barriers are built by first linking all social media accounts to mobile phone numbers and then only allowing selected prefixes (e.g. +86 for China) to register. 

Phone number-based registration systems allow platforms to limit access to users of certain regions or only to users from China. If access is limited to holders of only certain prefixes (such as +86), new users and users who have lost access to their accounts cannot (re-)join those online communities.

Hosted by the GreatFire, Sam will provide a comprehensive understanding of the magnitude of these restrictive practices, their global patterns, and the motives behind these phone number-based discrimination systems. Throughout the project, they will investigate the extent to which platforms remain accessible globally, the patterns of regional exclusion, and the policy background driving these limitations. As these restrictions are particularly impactful in regions with significant Chinese diaspora communities, research or business networks, and political ties.the project will also identify the most affected groups.