Last week in Asian internet culture was dominated by the continued viral spread of the ALS ice-bucket challenge to video-sharing sites in China, Japan, and elsewhere, and also by the sudden rise in popularity and visibility of the Indian-made messaging app Hike. The app has carved out a niche for itself by allowing youthful users to hide their social media activity from parents and other watchers — a huge draw in the conservative, collectivist society.

Journalists in India and internationally reacted with outrage and bewilderment to new social media policies at the Times of India requiring reporters there to hand over all social media accounts to their employer, and the nation’s ambitious, sprawling scheme to collect the biometric data on all its citizens for personal identification has begun running up again controversy for, among other things, its privacy implications. In China, a massive nationwide debate raged on Weibo over the appropriateness of harsh military training for youths in the summer months before reurning to school. Netizens in Indonesia claimed regulators there are too focused on controlling the Internet at the expense of legal efforts to boost the protection of citizens’ personal privacy online.

With students across Asia returning to school after a long summer break, the issue of the many online suppliers of copied, fake and plagiarised school assignments was much in the news — a thriving part of the economy of several nations, even including Japan.

yycover China

Due to a traditional cultural preference for baby boys and three decades of the one-child policy, China now has nearly 50 million single men with little or no marriage prospects. No wonder, then, so many sexually frustrated young men are taking their sexual impulses, and renminbi, into cyberspace.

The inaccessibility of both Twitter and YouTube in China has not stopped the Ice Bucket Challenge from taking over the country as it has elsewhere. More than 1.5 million Weibo users have used the #IceBucketChallenge hashtag and 1.43 billion people have viewed the topic. In contrast, on Twitter #IceBucketChallenge has been mentioned roughly 2.2 million times.

In late July, a directive from China’s Central Committee to the 86 million members of the communist party urged them all to to subscribe to the official public accounts called ’Communist Party Members’ on WeChat and Yixin,” two of China’s most popular mobile messaging apps. Why? To “help [readers] understand party members from a new point of view.”

With almost a million views in less than a week, a short video from Hong Kong has gone rapidly viral — and probably has acrophobes around the world whimpering in virtual terror.

A Chinese Weibo user has made a huge splash there with her translation of a South Korean web comic. The comic, called “Memory of My Wife,” about a man living with the ghost of his wife who died in a fire, was shared as a single image in a Weibo post. It now has over 130k upvotes, has been reshared over 530k times, and has over 77k comments.

Should China’s high-school students be required to undergo marsh military training each summer? That question is the subject of a nationwide debate that’s raging on Weibo at the moment — a debate that could never have existed even a few years ago.

Weibo is popular among many Chinese netizens for its notorious contests. One of the most popular must be last week’s ’beautiful blossom’ breast competition. Famous blogger Zhang Jiang asked women to post pictures of their cleavage with the inscription “Happy Zhang Jiang.” Over 3,200 contestants shared snaps of their racks, many of them very candid indeed.



Social media users in India are flocking to a new app, called Hike, because it can keep a secret. Hike’s selling point is that it lets users filter the information they transmit in sophisticated ways – and, more to the point, cloak aspects of their social lives from their parents. The app has surpassed 20 million users, making it by far the most popular Indian-made instant messaging system. It’s successfully competing against the titans of India’s online market — Facebook and WhatsApp — by offering a feature neither have: the ability to hide users’ activity from nosy friends and, especially, parents: very popular in a society where most youth are tightly controlled by their parents until well into adulthood.

Here’s a classic example of a shoddily reported news article filled with misinformation on Internet “addiction.” For example: “There is no doubt about the fact that there are web addicts all around us. Such people generally tend to become antisocial and it is very important to give them the right treatment at the right time.” Rubbish. This is the new Reefer Madness.

Journalists in India and internationally are reacting with outrage and bewilderment to a new social media policy at the Times of India for all its reporters: you don’t control your social media accounts, we do. Will this become the norm for news outlets in India?

It’s always worth checking into India’s version of Buzzfeed, StoryPick, once in a while for a object lesson in how the same listicles and clickbait headlines can be windows into the vastly different online culture. For example, a feature about how hard it is for unmarried women in their early 20s in India includes a joke about parent-created profiles for girls on “matrimonial sites” — because India doesn’t have dating sites, only marriage sites.

India’s sprawling scheme to collect the biometric data, including fingerprints and iris scans, of its 1.2 billion citizens and residents is quickly becoming practically, if not legally, mandatory, for nearly every aspect of life, from getting married to buying cooking gas to opening a bank account. But it’s also generating increasing controversy.



At a public forum on Internet governance in Jakarta last week, citizens expressed concern over a number of problems they saw with Indonesia’s Internet regulations. Many said that the government is too focused on controlling the Internet and forgetting to draft legal instruments to boost the protection of personal privacy online. Others said laws restricting “negative content” are far too broad and vaguely defined.

Google’s Street View has finally landed in Indonesia, where the search giant partnered with the Department of Tourism. Four major cities are now accessible via the platform. At the same time, the company also unveiled new underwater Street View imagery of the reefs at Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

More and more news outlets are starting to pay attention to the worryingly sophisticated use by extremist groups of online video and social media tools for propaganda and recruitment in Asia, particularly YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and

In its first foray into Southeast Asia’s largest economy, China’s leading smartphone vendor, Xiaomi, will start by selling its budget Redmi series exclusively on Indonesia ecommerce site Lazada. It will be targeting the country’s 73 million Internet users by promoting the device on social media there, especially Twitter and Facebook – both blocked in Xiaomi’s native China.

It’s interesting to compare two predominantly Islamic nations’ attitudes toward the Internet this week. In Iran, grand Ayatollah Makarem stated, “High-speed internet and 3G is against Sharia & moral ethics.” Meanwhile, Indonesia announced plans for a 15,000-kilometer high-speed cable connection with the US to boost Internet speeds there significantly. Which one will have more global relevance in 10 years?



Last week we noted the popularity in Thailand of online services trafficking in plagiarised school assignments — Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha even cited it as a problem during his weekly televised address. But this week it was made clear that “homework agencies” are big business in Japan, too, as many were overwhelmed with last-minute summer assignments as students there returned to school.

The Japan Times last week reported on the new trend there of “Internet fasting” to mitigate an increasing online dependence. Some companies are removing personal computers from individual workers’ desks, and “Internet fasting camps” for youth are proliferating. Compare this to the spread of harsh, military-style “Internet addiction boot camps” in places like China.

Recently we reported that after a valuable toy robot was stolen from a store in Japan, store owners threatened to release the thief’s identity online from security camera footage. The threat became the talk of the Internet and headline news in Japan for its advocacy of vigilante justice and its privacy implications. The store owner demurred, and last week police arrested the thief.

In Japan, a survey administered with the recent national exam shows a strong correlation between more hours spent playing videogames and lower scores on the exam. Do videogames make you dumber?

Clay Shirky has said that communication tools don’t get socially interesting until they’re technologically boring. Japanese Twitter users have latched onto an app for people learning to draw the human figure, and they’ve decided to put it to an altogether different use, with some bewildering results.

South Korea

A live audience of 11,000 in Seattle (not Seoul) and $11 million in total prize money. Has videogaming’s popularity as a spectator sport in places like South Korea finally jumped the Pacific to the US?

Thailand The Bangkok Post today deplores the “immoral” online sites and services trafficking in school assignments for money that have bloomed there in recent years. Prime minister-elect Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha even expressed concern over the homework businesses during his weekly televised address on Friday evening. A Thai man put his own, unique spin on the ice-bucket challenge: the manure bucket challenge. Must watch to believe it. Any Thai readers out there who care to let us know what he’s saying?

Roth Chan Dany


Phnom Penh teen Roth Chan Dany records and shares her own news clips from protests and disputes around her hometown. She’s one of a growing group of tech-savvy youth  in Cambodia who have embraced the spread of smartphones and social media to put local issues under the spotlight. Citizen journalists there often face intimidation and threats, as well as difficulty in obtaining information.


Increasing numbers of young Malaysia girls are using the Internet and smartphone messaging apps to solicit sex from strange men for money, say police there. There’s even a rising trend in selling their used underwear.


At a speaking engagement last Friday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said:

“My personal view is that human society was not designed with the internet age in mind, in the sense that the way it has always worked – information disseminates over a period of time, you have time to think it over, [let it] sink in, discuss it, understand it, and gradually form what we hope is a wise consensus. But today, all of that is telescoped and the splash goes out tonight, and tomorrow morning, everybody knows the answer, which may be the wrong answer. In fact, far from having a faster circuit, you have a short circuit collectively, and that is a real problem which I don’t think people have found solutions to.”

The smartphone smartphone app Uber, which connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire, has had a mixed reception in Asia, welcomed with open arms in some nations (Vietnam, Singapore) while meeting fierce resistance in others (virtually everywhere else). Tech in Asia offers a short overview of the company’s fortunes in disrupting taxi industries in Asia to date.


The viral meme of the moment in the Philippines is one that’s already oh, so mid-August elsewhere: the ’makeup transformation’ meme, in which where Net users pose for a few photos in a tiled frame applying makeup, and are then miraculously transformed into a well-known celebrity. As elsewhere, Filipino users are bringing their own unique sense of style to the fad. pinoy11