Blanked-out areas of Baidu Maps reveal location of Chinese camps, prisons, military facilities, the lot

Baidu offers a satellite map service much like Google's or Microsoft's. Based in China, it is subject to rigorous censorship. By comparing conspiciously blanked-out areas on Baidu Maps to the corresponding regions in western mapping services, Buzzfeed uncovered a network of prisons and internment camps in Xinjiang. But there's more: also concealed this way are military facilities, power plants, and more.

Once we found that we could replicate the blank tile phenomenon reliably, we started to look at other camps whose locations were already known to the public to see if we could observe the same thing happening there. Spoiler: We could. … Having established that we could probably find internment camps in this way, we examined Baidu's satellite tiles for the whole of Xinjiang … In total there were 5 million masked tiles across Xinjiang. They seemed to cover any area of even the slightest strategic importance — military bases and training grounds, prisons, power plants, but also mines and some commercial and industrial facilities.

This is the most exquisite example of the Streisand Effect I've ever seen. If they'd never censored it, no-one would ever have known where to look. But now the world has a map not only of PRC state oppression in Xinjiang but the region's most vulnerable critical infrastructure.