Last week in Asian internet culture, we looked at the impact in China of of flesh-eating zombie rumours, GIF memes parodying Kim Jong Un, and continuing goatee-twiddling over state media’s bungled attempt to co-opt Guo Meimei’s final moment in the spotlight. The ALS ice bucket challenge surged across the browsers of citizens in several Asian nations, though it didn’t get the same welcome everywhere. In Thailand, a popular transgender activist has become a thorn in the side of the military junta there by using social media, and Japanese messaging app Line removes stickers of the Buddha after an international outcry from offended Buddhists.

In India, at least one writer poked a hole in the simplistic narrative of internet “addiction” that is so dominant elsewhere in Asia, and — spurned by the United States Federal Aviation Administration — announced it would begin deploying its drone delivery service in major Indian cities this year. We’re also beginning to see more serious attention being given to the sophisticated use by Islamic jihadists like ISIS of popular social media tools for recruitment, especially in India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. And finally, enigmatic Vietnamese game developer Dong Nguyen lands back on the top app charts with his new Swing Copters, sharing the top 10 with another Vietnamese-created game – another fluke, or a genuine trend?


The remixed video parody that surfaced a few weeks ago mocking North Korea’s Kim Jong Un by photoshopping his grinning mug onto a series of pratfalling, Stooge-like characters was no fluke. It’s the work of an anonymous Chinese remixer, a.k.a. ‘shagen egao,’  whose .gif memes have become an underground pop success there. Scholar Gabriele de Seta posts a short essay about the provenance and function such memes serve in China as what he calls “digital folklore.”

Rumors have been spreading on Chinese social media sites that Ebola is turning its human victims into flesh-eating zombies. Concerns there became so widespread that China’s official news agency, Xinhua, published a misinformation-filled report assuring everyone that ebola is not a zombie disease — prompting many netizens to observe that’s EXACTLY what the Chinese government would say if ebola was a zombie disease.

A newly viral online video game, titled “All the people search for Jaycee Chan,” features Jackie Chan’s son and his actor friend Ko Chen-tung, both busted in Beijing earlier this week for possession of illegal substances. The game premiered on Tuesday in mainland China and received 60 million visits by Wednesday, according to China Youth Daily. Chinese microbloggers joked about “turning blind” after playing the game for so long.

The Economist looks at last week’s tightly stage-managed public shaming and “self-confession” of ostentatious Chinese Internet celebrity Guo Meimei in the context of China’s long cultural fascination with publicly humiliating criminals and dissidents as a demonstration of state power. Last week’s attempt to do the same with Meimei, however, backfired in a big way.

Taiwan’  smartphone owners topped a global survey of Internet usage time released last week, spending an average of 197 minutes daily surfing the Internet, followed by Indonesians at 181 minutes and those in the Philippines at 174 minutes.The rest of the top 10 were mainland China, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong and India, and South Korea. The U.S. was the only non-Asian state in the top tier of the survey.

Chinese cartoonist Wang Liming, aka Rebel Pepper (变态辣椒), has taken a drubbing on social media, being called a “Japan-Worshipping Traitor,” in the mainland for recent cartoons that have becomepopular in HOng Kong. In one, he pokes gentle fun at the recent pro-Beijing protests in Hong Kong, where mainlanders were bussed in, clad in matching T-shirts, and organized into groups by hometown, school, and employer. Another, a cartoon image in memory of Deng Xiao Ping and his reforms, kept the Internet censors busy all week. It references his famous quote: “It doesn’ t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.”


We have a feeling China state media won’ t be picking up this satirical Onion article and mistakenly passing it off as fact, as has happened before. But we bet it gets some serious traction on social media there before being “harmonized.”

The ALS ice bucket challenge finally made it to the shores of the Middle Kingdom, where Chinese billionaire Internet entrepreneur Zhou Hongyi, the founder of search portal Qihoo, dumped a bucket of ice water over his head to raise funds for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) research. Will viral philanthropy catch on in China?

At Quartz, a lengthy article examines what it calls the dissatisfaction and ambivalence Chinese web users have for state-controlled search engine Baidu, the only game in town since Google left China in 2010. “Despite Baidu’s ubiquity, many users are finding it to be a poor replacement—especially students, academics, researchers, and technicians who need to rapidly find reliable information online.”

The Economist reports that more and more primary schoolchildren in China have severe reading difficulties. Why? Computers, smartphones and tablets, it seems. Today’s kids can use keyboards to type a word in pinyin, then select the right character from a list. Some experts worry that literacy levels will begin declining within just ten years.

In new research following up on a groundbreaking study that received much attention last year, Harvard scientists have determined that Chinese censors are far more worried about online discussion of protests and other “collective action events” than posts on senior leaders, government policies and other sensitive issues.

The NYT’s Sinosphere blog highlights a growing new phenomenon in China that only digital natives could love: The rise in cinemas there of “bullet screens” on which moviegoers’  comments are projected while a film is playing so that at any given time, a scene may be overlaid with multiple text messages from audience members.

China-based filmmakers Sharron Lovell and Tom Wang have created a beautiful short documentary, with an introduction by The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos, entitled “Chinese Dreamers.” Well worth a few minutes.



Finally, a voice of reason in the face of the misplaced furor over Internet “addiction” in Asia. A writer for Yahoo! India takes a clear-eyed look at the many kinds of online behaviors all too often labeled as “addiction” in India and finds a corrosive and incorrect use of the word: “What the term  ‘Internet Addiction’  does – apart from mistaking symptoms for causes – is that it changes the nature of the Internet in the public’s imagination.”

Thwarted by the FAA from trialing its automated drone home delivery service in the US, online retail giant has decided it will beging rolling out the service in India, instead. The company will debut its Prime Air service with trials in Mumbai and Bangalore as early as October.

News outlets in South Asia have recently begun warning citizens there that the militant Islamic jihadi organization known as ISIS has been recruiting young men to its cause using sophisticated online tools such as videos with Hindi and Tamil subtitles, Facebook, Twitter, and social messaging apps like WhatsApp and Line.

No more ugly arguments. No more haggling. The next time people in Bangalore travel by rickshaw, they can find out exactly how much they have to shell out – thanks to a text-based mobile phone application that will launch this week. Autofare is a non-smartphone app developed by local traffic police and a private developer aimed at easing public transport for local commuters.

Outraged Indian netizens heaped scorn on Mumbai photographer Raj Shetye’s online fashion editorial, titled “The Wrong Turn,” featuring a glamorous model in a cocktail dress being grabbed and groped on a bus by several men.

A Bangalore citizen who’ d been burgled and was receiving telephone threats was ignored by city police for four months — until he took to Twitter to reach the Bangalore police commissioner. After Tweeting twice to the commish’s handle, he got a prompt response and a full investigation has begun.

Raj Shetye


With Joko Widodo now officially confirmed as Indonesia’s next president, the new leader of the world’s fourth largest nation also inherits the problem of the many Indonesians who are fighting with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. These jihadists are actively recruiting citizens back home via videos on the Internet, and Islamic online forums in Indonesia explicitly offer “support and solidarity” for the Islamic State. How will Jokowi address these challenges?



The smartphone game Tower of Saviors has become so popular in Hong Kong it’s a cultural icon. The trouble is, it’s a shameless ripoff of an earlier Japanese game called Puzzle & Dragons, whose fans are furious at Tower of Saviors’  success. They’ ve created dozens of image memes and video parodies mocking the “plagiarism.” Jason Li looks at the culture of such Asian meme mockery in a post at 88 Bar.

Lawmakers in Japan are considering new legislation criminalizing “hate speech” to counter the rise of ultranationalist right-wing racism there. But Japanese netizens have come out strongly against such a law, citing concerns about limits to freedom of speech online. This is especially interesting in light of how many other Asian nations are generally supportive of such limits on speech. Japan, as usual, is an outlier.

Four years ago, emoji were mostly confined to Japanese cell phones. Today, they’ re on practically every electronic device you can buy. But even though emoji are almost completely textless, their translation from Japanese to other cultures hasn’ t been perfect.


South Korea/North Korea

[#NorthKorea] Most citizens in North Korea have never even heard of the Internet, but it’s well-known that top government officials have full access — and apparently they like to download Western media content. An analysis of Bittorrent downloads from Pyongyang reveals a weakness for computer games like Angry Birds, travel shows, Top Gear, and lots and lots of pornography.



[#Malaysia-#Singapore] A video clip showing 18 nude Malaysian, Singaporean, Indian, and Burmese adults participating in body painting and outdoor activities on a secluded beach at Penang National Park went viral recently, leading to a huge uproar in Malaysia and an arrest warrant. Now it appears a Singaporean man has turned himself into police for the activities — intended, he says, to promote a “healthy lifestyle.”



Reports of Dong Nguyen’s irrelevance after removing “Flappy Bird” from the app store seem to have been exaggerated. Last week, the new game from the enigmatic Vietnamese game developer, Swing Copters, jumped to #2 on the U.S. app store, and another Vietnamese-created game, Amazing Brick, landed at the #5 spot. Does this portend the emergence of Vietnam as a authentic new force in mobile game development? It’s becoming harder and harder to claim, as many did, that Nguyen’s “Flappy Bird” success was a fluke



Aum Neko wins the transgender activist of the year award hands down. The transgender critic of the military junta in Thailand has become a thorn in the side of coup leaders, and an embarrassing distraction, by regularly criticizing the coup on social media in a most creative fashion.

In a predominantly Buddhist nation like Thailand, the Buddha is naturally a figure of some reverence. But digital versions on a mobile app? Not so much. After 40 Buddhist organisations worldwide launched an international protest campaign, cartoonish figures of the Buddha have been dropped from the Line application sticker store in Thailand, but they are still on sale elsewhere.

After accepting the ice-bucket challenge, Surabot Leekpai, founder of the VRZO online variety program, named his three challengees, including junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha. Wisecracking commenters on the video suggested that VRZO can probably now expect to be shut down.

A Thai woman who goes by the username Mortao Maotor on Instagram has posted more than 12,000 pictures of herself to the internet, often at a clip of more than 200 a week. Is this the world’s selfie queen?

Check out the trailer for a new straight-to-DVD movie called “Cam2Cam.” Set in Thailand, it’s a techno-horror thriller that spins around the idea of a Chatroulette-like platform on which a sexy visiting tourist discovers women are being beheaded by …. oh, whatever. You know the script. Let’s just say it’s safe to assume it was filmed in pre-coup Thailand. The National Council for Peace and Order would not approve.