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Censorship of Chinese Social Media Is Real, Comprehensive

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the byline-redacted-due-to-subversive-messages dept.

China 62

chicksdaddy writes "Threatpost has a write-up of a study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University that provides the first conclusive evidence that Chinese government censorship extends to social media sites like Sina Weibo, the popular micro blogging Web site that many have likened to a Chinese Twitter. 'The study ... found that censors in China delete around 16 percent of the messages submitted to Sina Weibo ... The study, released in March, concludes that "soft censorship" in China — the removal of controversial subject matter from blogs and Web pages — is at least as popular as hard censorship, like the blocking of offensive sites. The result is suppression of news about events or individuals that are deemed threatening to the ruling Communist party.'"

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62 comments

Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480079)

Why is any news of censorship in China a front page news story on slashdot? It's not news for nerds, and certainly not relevant to anybody not in China.

Anyway, its a fact of life that the Chinese government censors, its not newsworthy or new to anybody. Why slashdot continues to naval gaze at China's censorship policies is a mystery. Stay out of their internal policies and affairs.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (4, Funny)

Benji Minoskovich (1266090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480141)

...said the underpaid, overworked Chinese web sensor as he enters his 13th consecutive hour of erasing individual thought from his cubicle in smoky, windowless Beijing office. Perhaps slashdot has a Chinese reader or two. That would make it their business.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480325)

I'd like to have that job. Bet it's real easy. Just sit in your air-conditioned cublicle & toss stuff down the "memory hole".

"In the walls of the cubicle there were three orifices. To the right a small pneumatic tube for written messages; to the left a larger one for newspapers; and in the side wall, within easy reach of Winston's arm, a large oblong slit protected by a wire grating. This last was for the disposal of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building, not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes."

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39481281)

Sure it's easy - until you remember something.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (1)

PatPending (953482) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480477)

*censor

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480657)

Chinese Confucius claims web sensor can censor web.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480819)

I cense what did there.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39481125)

*you

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (1)

NicknameAvailable (2581237) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480815)

...said the underpaid, overworked Chinese web sensor as he enters his 13th consecutive hour of erasing individual thought from his cubicle in smoky, windowless Beijing office.

I agree - it is absurd these fucking liberals have taken the right to smoke in public buildings away from us - even the Chinese can do that.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (1)

unix_core (943019) | more than 2 years ago | (#39482135)

I guess I don't really count as chinese, just though I'd mention I'm reading this article inside china without any proxy. Maybe he got sloppy after 12 hours or so. Actually, while a lot of chinese are certanly under-paid, I find that many local friends of mine just work 7 hours a day.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (2, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480975)

Why is any news of censorship in China a front page news story on slashdot? It's not news for nerds, and certainly not relevant to anybody not in China.

We care what happens in China because they are fellow-citizens of the world. We want them to be happy too, and have freedoms and rights like the rest of us.

This news is interesting because it's a LOT of censorship. A few years ago, I was in China, and a lot of people didn't know much about the censorship, some would even deny it existed. It's like the old saying, "you feel free until you want to do something you can't." If 16% of the posts are being deleted, that means nearly everyone is going to be having their posts deleted. That's going to be noticed.

You probably don't pay attention to China, but they are an oligarchy, with power at the top being maintained by a small group. There are more and more signs that this group is going to run into problems, and this is just one. It will be interesting (for people who like watching governments) to see if they are able to maintain power.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39481867)

An Oligarchy might be a good way to describe most of what we laughingly call our western democracies. They certainly aren't listening to their populations so they must be listening to a small subset that can pay them to do as they are told. The only difference is that in our "democracies" we vote in a different set of faces every once in a while to take the public place of them as is actually calling the shots.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (1)

Isaac Remuant (1891806) | more than 2 years ago | (#39481875)

it's funny that you used the term oligarchy. I find that term so suitable for most so called democracies. Corporatocracy might work as well.

As for why it is important. What happens to China can happen elsewhere. It sucks for them and it can suck for us in the future if we're not vigilant. It'd be certainly cool if we could make it disappear entirely.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (2)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39481895)

it's funny that you used the term oligarchy. I find that term so suitable for most so called democracies. Corporatocracy might work as well.

The point of democracy is this: if you want to change the people in power, you can. You don't need a violent revolution. With a democracy, if you are charismatic enough to get an army that would win a bloody revolution, then you are also charismatic enough to win an election.

With China, it is not clear that they will make a bloodless transition of power. I hope for their sake they do, for "when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers."

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | more than 2 years ago | (#39483351)

I'd rather know what percentage of twitter posts are deleted in the US.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39484751)

How many of yours have been deleted? You can maybe estimate from that.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39483779)

I get lots of post censored in forums here in the Good Ole West, although they don't violate any of the website rules. They're deleted simply because they're politically controversial. Fortunately, that doesn't happen in Slashdot. Yet.

I don't use Facebook, but some friends have reported having content disappear although it was perfectly legitimate, just because it wasn't politically convenient.

Not mentioning newspapers and TVs sweeping inconvenient news under the rug while blasting the convenient ones.

Welcome to soft censorship by the oligarchy. The difference is that we have elections, so we can choose which of the clowns will be executing the oligarchy's policies the next years.

Now, where were we? China?

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39484719)

Start your own website and stop your whining. No one is obligated to promote your idiotic views for you. Do it yourself.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39485035)

Wow. So much anger. Did I hit a nerve? Get a cold shower.

You don't even know what my views are, why are you calling them idiotic? Trolling jerk.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39485579)

You don't even know what my views are, why are you calling them idiotic? Trolling jerk.

Oh no, I DO know what your views are. You consider Facebook deleting posts to be "censorship by the oligarchy," and equate it to forced government censorship by China. If you can't see the difference between what Facebook does and what China does, then you're either unaware in general, or too idiotic to understand nuances. Also, I would suggest being very skeptical about what your friends say about Facebook. Don't trust them until you see the evidence yourself.

Also, I'm not mad, this is entertainment.

Re:Who Cares, Its None of Your Business (1)

meowris (1988866) | more than 2 years ago | (#39483213)

Hi, here is a regard from your fellow Chinese reader.

ORLY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480101)

Is anyone at all surprised by this, really?

Finally there is proof! (5, Funny)

bigredradio (631970) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480103)

I am glad there is finally proof. I wasn't quite sure that the PRC would be censoring websites. Now if we can just get proof of that moon landing thing...

Re:Finally there is proof! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480533)

Just watch the "myth busters" episode it is OBVIOUS they were paid off...

Re:Finally there is proof! (1)

NicknameAvailable (2581237) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480847)

Just watch the "myth busters" episode it is OBVIOUS they were paid off...

Well, yeah, but only to save Americans the day-to-day stress of knowing the spider-rocks on Apollo 18 were real.

Re:Finally there is proof! (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39481161)

Studies like this are for people who like a little more detail and hard facts than "DUH, CHINA=BAD"

Uh... (1, Offtopic)

Chicken_Kickers (1062164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480119)

The story below this article on Slashdot reads Congress refuses to let Bruce Schneier testify. Read between the lines people.

Re:Uh... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480501)

The fact that you were able to read that story below shows the difference between the two countries.

Congressional testimony doesn't mean much, it's mainly for show, not for getting new information.

Re:Uh... (4, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480663)

Freedom of speech doesn't mean much when your political leaders don't listen to it. In China, they simply delete information they do not want to address. In the United states they ignore it, or more often then not, drowned it out by creating fake controversies. I know, lets drag some athletes in front of congress to talk about steroids as if anyone cared. Or pretend like they have the power to ban some music. How about we get some hedge fund managers to take the 5th over and over again while congressmen pretend like they aren't taking money under the table from them at the same time? It's ridiculous. And now the president can even order a US citizens death without judicial review. How are we all that different than China? Oh that's right, we're in debt up to our eyeballs, have no potential for future growth and want to fund free healthcare, free internet and trains no-one will ride with money we don't have... that's how we're different.

Re:Uh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480701)

How are we all that different than China? Oh that's right, we're in debt up to our eyeballs, have no potential for future growth and want to fund free healthcare, free internet and trains no-one will ride with money we don't have... that's how we're different.

There would be plenty of money if not for the waging of wars.

Re:Uh... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39481379)

No there wouldn't. We didn't PAY for the wars. We borrowed the money. Even if we hadn't waged any of the wars we've had since the first gulf war we wouldn't have any more money, because we never paid for any of them, we just stuck them on the national debt. We are currently 15.5 trillion dollars in dept. Your share is $50k. Think about that.

Re:Uh... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480729)

Freedom of speech doesn't mean much when your political leaders don't listen to it. In China, they simply delete information they do not want to address. In the United states they ignore it, or more often then not, drowned it out by creating fake controversies

This is the dumbest conception of Freedom of Speech that I've heard in a while.

You have freedom of speech, you don't have the right to force people to listen. Which is good because otherwise I might have to read the rest of your post, where you draw a false-equivalency with China, sprinkled freely with fact-free pessimistic predictions of the future. You fail at the basic logic fallacies Richard Feynman warned about [lhup.edu]

Re:Uh... (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39481413)

I didn't address my conception of freedom of speech in my post. I addressed how meaningless it was to have freedom of speech in an environment in which our political leaders are basically had picked for us and completely ignore everything we say. There is absolutely no difference between our 2 political parties. Irrelevent of who is elected in the next presidential election, our president, whomever they may end up being, will do the exact same thing. We'll invade the same countries, we'll spend the same amount of money on projects that will go no-where.

Re:Uh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39481463)

I addressed how meaningless it was to have freedom of speech in an environment in which our political leaders are basically had picked for us and completely ignore everything we say.

Well then. There's nothing like reaffirming your own misunderstandings by repeating them, is there. When can freedom of speech be more important than when the ruling class ignores the people? How else can you find out about injustices, if people can't tell each other about it? "The pen is mightier than the sword," a true saying, which is why tyrants the world over suppress freedom of speech.

And you really should read the Feynman thing [lhup.edu] . It'll help fix some of your cognitive biases.

Re:Uh... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39481829)

will do the exact same thing. We'll invade the same countries, we'll spend the same amount of money on projects that will go no-where.

I have info for you friend, the reason we do that is because voters want those things. The day a senator gets booed after he stands up and say, "I brought 200million dollars and 10,000 jobs to this region!" is the day politicians will stop spending money on projects that will go no-where.

Re:Uh... (1)

kwoff (516741) | more than 2 years ago | (#39482015)

You have freedom of speech, you don't have the right to force people to listen. Which is good because otherwise I might have to read the rest of your post, where you draw a false-equivalency with China, sprinkled freely with fact-free pessimistic predictions of the future. You fail at the basic logic fallacies Richard Feynman warned about [lhup.edu]

Nice appeal to authority there.

Re:Uh... (4, Insightful)

poity (465672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39481013)

Freedom of speech doesn't mean much when your political leaders don't listen to it.

The freedom of speech is MOST important when leaders don't listen, because with it one can spread his/her thoughts, create ripples in society, and begin a movement. When that movement changes society, government has no choice but to follow. Perhaps in this case of your pet causes you can make the argument that society changes too slowly for your liking, but that's not a criticism of the value of the freedom of speech.

Re:Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39481205)

Indeed. Check out the whole nuclear thing. Quite happy with coal fired power plants people are, but not nuclear! This is in light of the fact that many people have died from coal power station stuff, and not so many from nuclear power station stuff. Le sigh.

Re:Uh... (4, Insightful)

poity (465672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39481091)

Reading your post again, it seems as if you believe the purpose of the freedom of speech is to beg government to do what you want. I think if you believe that, you've already thrown your hands up in defeat. Defeatist thinking like this is already endemic in the Chinese populace, you can call it the Mei Ban Fa syndrome -- when you speak to Chinese people about politically charged issues, the most common answer is "mei ban fa" (can't be helped), as in "we're just the rabble, government won't listen" Americans would do well to not infect themselves with it.

Re:Uh... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39481189)

America is a republic. The political leaders don't have to listen to you. You voted them in as your representative. If you don't like how they do their job, vote them out next time. Just because someone you don't like got reelected, isn't proof the system does not work. This is also a democracy. You don't get everything you want.

And this system IS different than China. If you had written those words as a Chinese citizen, you would be eligible for a free trip to a work camp for the rest of your life. The fact that you can say such disparaging remarks about our leaders is proof that our system is different and better than China's.

Re:Uh... (2)

murdocj (543661) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480853)

yeah, that's right, it's exactly the same, all of Schneier's posts and articles are being removed by the USA govern.... O... whups, sorry, in fact there's NO CONNECTION between the Congress not wanting to listen to someone testify and the Chinese government censoring the entire Internet to maintain their iron grip on power. None, Zero.

Um, yeah (0)

ihatewinXP (638000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480147)

If you lived there you'd know this. Everyone in china does.

  That is why they are less afraid to post subversive Ideas at times than Americans: their posts will just be deleted by someone making 1RMB a post (15c - an actual figure). As opposed to Americans who I find self censor much more as they know everything they ever type is being specifically cataloged by the NSA.

Re:Um, yeah (3)

ihatewinXP (638000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480207)

By the way:

Net censorship in china is not specifically nationwide. It is done by province. So in Beijing you can read "x" but not in Chongqing and versa vice.

And again most of the censors are just "kids" really. No Older than 30 most of the time. So a bit more tuned in - and prob better at their job than adults would be.

I always heard it was between 5 mao or 1 kuai per post deleted. As there was an attempted coup last week of imagine some kids are getting PAID this week....

Re:Um, yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480443)

NSA you say? - that's a given. The real self self censoring occurs specifically to allow inane and otherwise useless comments to slip by the mods on Slashdot!

Poetry. (4, Insightful)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480197)

There is a certain poetry in the fact that this article appears immediately after the TSA/Schneier hearing article [slashdot.org] in which the TSA's silencing of Bruce Schneier's testimony against it in Congress is discussed.

Re:Poetry. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39481163)

At least the Chinese government is honest about its repression of "controversial" ideas. We in the USA are just living in the State of Denial...

If you don't see the difference (3, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39482191)

Then you have a serious problem in terms of your perception.

I am not saying in any way shape or form that I think congress's choice is a good one. However this is NOT silencing the man. He is free to speak his mind on and off line and he does, with great eloquence. He is free to testify in any other venue he is asked to testify in, including the lawsuit by EPIC against the TSA. He is free to write his congressman about how fucking stupid it is that he was invited and then uninvited, and to do so without fear of repercussion. He is free to (and hopefully will) go on the news and out this to the country.

What it comes down to is congress is having the hearing, they can listen or not listen to who they want. That is their right, it is their hearing. They owe it to their constituents to get the best available testimony and I encourage everyone who is represented by someone who is involved in removing him from the witness list to do what is in your power to ensure your congressman does not return next term. However it is their right to listen to who they want, or to just not have a hearing at all.

This is real, REAL different than the government suppressing political speech on the Internet. If they'd had his blog shut down, or blocked Slashdot from linking to it, then hell yes it would be the same. As it is they are doing what all to many people do, including you and I: Listening to what they want to hear, not the whole truth. That is poor job performance, it isn't censorship.

Re:Poetry. (1)

dean.collins (862044) | more than 2 years ago | (#39482609)

i wish i could vote this post up X1000

Youtube censorship at work (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480271)

Good thing I have access to tudou. Thanks China! ;-) Any other video sites I should check out to get around the censoring?

my mod points cancel your Chinese (2)

issicus (2031176) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480581)

our Chinese counter parts must have a million mod points.

So the communists in China... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480613)

... are like the GOP in the USA? Is there an official news agency, like FoxNews(tm). --Fairly balanced between the hard right and the ultra-right end of the political spectrum.

Re:So the communists in China... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480807)

Is there an official news agency

Here in the US we call it NPR.

Fox is the media outlet the Government is trying to censure [hughhewitt.com]

Or they could have... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480633)

...just asked someone who works at a Chinese IT company. I live in Beijing and have a friend at a local social networking site - they receive a list of words every month, anonymously, and they know what they have to do with it. I imagine it involves an SQL query featuring "DELETE FROM".

But Chinese netizens always find a way around it, whether through homonyms, synonyms or even numerical trickery (see May 35th).

Re:Or they could have... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39480983)

But Chinese netizens always find a way around it, whether through homonyms, synonyms or even numerical trickery (see May 35th).

They shouldn't need to.

Re:Or they could have... (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39481743)

If it is anonymous, cant someone else send you fake and embarrassing one?

Australian WHIRLPOOL.NET.AU deletes messages, too! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39480779)

Censorship is - for some - a term that refers to gov't message "deleters" but it should apply also to private operators of social-media, forums, etc.

It feels the SAME to have one's carefully crafted essays unduly removed... whether by gov't or "private" service operators, and there should really be effective laws against each type of what I consider censorship.

In Australia, to have one's essay removed by an invisible, unknown "moderator" eg on WHIRLPOOL.NET.AU drags social communication back to the country's colonial period... whether it "protects" the interests of its sponsors' / donors' companies or friends, there's NO place for such interference to open & free discussion in a modern democracy, IMO.

SlashDot.org has one of the more -sane- systems of effectively "sinking" unpopular & "floating" more popular posts; all posts remain to be read, but only those on levels at or above the level of popularity, that you choose can be viewed. Ie, it's the readers who decide what they'll have access to... NOT the gov't or even the community operators' "moderators".

(Even the Aussie "bargains" site - OzBargain.com.au - does better than WHIRLPOOL... by preserving comments, for those who may wish to read them... the comments are "greyed" but not lost to the curious.)

In my view, SlashDot's - or similar - models should apply to all on-line social-media & community forums.

PSL I find moderators acting like the "neighhood watch" goon, who recently shot-dead a boy of color, who happened to be wearing a "hoodie" as he walked back from a snack shop.

Both deserve to be brought to justice... some for reducing our freedom of speech, & one (in Florida) for killing a person.

Re:Australian WHIRLPOOL.NET.AU deletes messages, t (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39481481)

a big DUUUHHH?

Probably 90 percent of all websites in the world censors.

So Carnegie Mellon spent tax payer money to study the blatantly obvious?

In related news, Chinaman eats three meals each day.

Did someone just say "Weibo?" (1)

Hsien-Ko (1090623) | more than 2 years ago | (#39481035)

'cause I think I just heard someone say "Weibo."

The Best Slave... (1)

confuscan (2541066) | more than 2 years ago | (#39481215)

The best slave is the one who thinks he's free. Soft censorship is so much more effective than hard censorship. I'm surprised it took the Chinese so long to figure it out.

Wow. Thanks for studying the obvious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39481233)

I'm an ex-pat living in China. It's well known, and absolutely not secret that the government has active censorship on social media here. It's taken as a normalcy in life, not a conspiracy theory..this study is a waste of time.

It's interesting, I suppose, to see the #s - and I'd question the %s based on how incredibly active social media is on absolutely non-political issues, but the root of the study is no more investigative than researching whether humans enjoy sex or only take part for procreation.

This is no news. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39481529)

This is no news. This has been confirmed by millions of Chinese netizens many years ago. They also replace banned words with *s.

I just wanted to say... (1)

GoochOwnsYou (1343661) | more than 2 years ago | (#39481687)

... before the Great Firewall of Australia is put in place: fuck Hu Jintao and his Communist Party
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