China's Internet censors are capricious and impossible to predict -- but this isn't because China's censors are incompetent, rather, they're tapping into one of the most powerful forms of conditioning, the uncertainty born of intermittent reinforcement.
Some examples of China's odd rule-changes: a viral video by comedian Papi Jiang has been expunged because it used the terms "wocao" ("fuck") and "xiaobiaozi" ("little whore"), though thousands of other videos that prominently feature the terms were left untouched. Apple's ebook and video platforms were also suddenly taken offline.
As C Custer writes at Tech in Asia, this caprice is by design: by not specifying a set of hard and fast rules, but rather the constant risk of being taken down for crossing some invisible line, China's censors inspire risk-aversion in people who rely on the net to be heard or earn their livings. It's what Singaporeans call "out of bounds," the unspecified realm of things you musn't, shouldn't or won't want to enter.
Imagine being near a steep cliff. During the day, when you can see clearly, you might walk right up to the edge to take in the view. But at night or during a thick fog, you’re probably going to steer well clear of the cliff’s edge to ensure that you don’t accidentally misjudge where you are and tumble to your death.
China’s vaguely-defined web content rules and inconsistent censorship enforcement work the same way as the fog near a cliff: since people can’t see exactly where the edge is, they’re more likely to stay far away from it, just in case. There’s no toeing the line, because nobody knows exactly where the line is. So instead of pushing the envelope, many people choose to censor themselves.
The cleverest thing about China’s internet censorship
[C Custer/Tech In Asia]
Why The Growing Unpredictability Of China's Censorship Is A Feature, Not A Bug
(Image: Cliff side road to Curral das Freiras, Thomas Hobbs, CC-BY-SA)
Frontier is the bottom-rung of the top-tier of US ISPs, serving customers in 29 states. Despite enjoying monopoly control over its customers' online lives, and despite massive government handouts and a lackadaisical approach to maintenance, and despite out-and-out theft from customers, the company is filing for bankruptcy, having accumulated $16.3b in debt through mismanagement.
Bruce Schneier's Foreign Policy essay in 5G security argues that we're unduly focused on the possibility of Chinese manufacturers inserting backdoors or killswitches in 5G equipment, and not focused enough on intrinsic weakness in a badly defined, badly developed standard wherein "near-term corporate profits prevailed against broader social good."
Long before 4chan and other anything-goes forums existed, every major online community had a similar community: the Well had its "weird" forum, Usenet had alt.syntax.tactical (among others), and Something Awful had the "Fuck You and Die" forum, where people were funny, mean, obscene, and gross, sometimes all at once.
For wine lovers around the world, it’s all about discovery. Once they get a taste for the grape, oenophiles are rarely satisfied with even the most carefully curated, go-to vintages. There’s always a hunt for the next great pairing, the thrill of uncorking a bold new Tempranillo or sublime Moscato. That feeling is a jones […]
These toys and games can keep the kids busy while you’re all trapped inside. As rough as all this time cooped up inside the house is on us adults, it’s even worse for kids. All that borderline maniacal energy along with an unquenchable thirst for stimulation and attention make home sequestration like a life sentence […]
Python is everywhere. Just look under the hood of virtually every major tech player of the 21st century and you’re likely to find a whole lot of Python-based coding language staring back at you. Case in point: Netflix. You may not know it, but from its security protocols to its much-hyped recommendations, it turns out […]