Wechatscope is a research project from the University of Hong Kong; they ingest every public status update on Wechat, the Chinese social network used by more than a billion people, then record which messages are later made unavailable, and infer from that the most censored topics on the network.
International scandals top the list -- the US-Chinese trade war; the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou by Canadian authorities; US sanctions against ZTE -- but the list is dominated by domestic scandals: #MeToo at Peking University, a string of corruption cases, business frauds, and the CRISPR twins.
It's a good reminder that Chinese internet censorship is a nuanced phenomenon, where certain kinds of unrest and scandal are tolerated (especially if they help root out corruption that does not implicate favored high-level officials), but anything that spills over into real-world demonstrations is stopped before it can get started.
Upon examining our full 2018 data set, the research team found that the scope of topics censored on WeChat has expanded from domestic policies and social unrest to less politically sensitive topics, in what seems to be an effort to support China’s international political image as a “great power”. The most sensitive topics of 2018 included:
China-US trade war
US sanctions against ZTE
The arrest of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei in Canada
The investigation of businessman Ye Jianming for economic crimes
Hongmao medicinal liquor scandal
#Metoo and sexual harassment allegations against a Peking University professor
Passenger-driver conflict in Chongqing
World’s first genetically-edited baby
Changsheng vaccine scandal
Fan Bingbing tax fraud scandal
Censored on WeChat: A year of content removals on China’s most powerful social media platform · Global Voices [Marcus Wang and Stella Fan/Global Voices]
Citizen Lab has expanded its analysis of how censorship and filtering work on Chinese social media (previously). In (Can’t) Picture This 2 An Analysis of WeChat’s Realtime Image Filtering in Chats , researchers probe and document how Wechat complies with Chinese state censorship policies in private chats.
After a leak revealed that the British Ambassador to the USA had called Trump "inept, insecure and incompetent" (leading to the ambassador's resignation and a round of Twitter insults between Trump and senior Tory officials), London's Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu publicly warned journalists not to publish government leaks, threatening to imprison them if […]
One of the arguments against hate-speech laws is that once the state starts dividing expression into "allowed" and "prohibited," the "prohibited" category tends to grow, in three ways: first, because company lawyers and other veto-wielders err on the side of caution by excising anything that might be in the "prohibited" bucket; second, because courts respond […]
When it comes to passwords, there’s no such thing as paranoia. You want them secure and complex, and you definitely don’t want to repeat them on all your accounts. The trouble is, the internet seems to keep growing. And so do those accounts. Just one lockout from an important email or banking site is enough […]
With the rising temperatures on tap this summer, the climate is going to be a frequent topic of conversation, and those conversations won’t be happy ones. Luckily, there’s a way to do a little climate change of your own – in a safe and sustainable way. When it comes to personal air conditioners, EvaPolar is […]
Whether you’re using them for next-level selfies or steady tracking shots, gimbals are a must for anyone who wants to maximize the potential of these powerful smartphone cameras we’re all carrying around. But those smartphones are also supposed to be portable, and let’s face it: Gimbals tend to offset that advantage. Weighing in at just […]