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China: Various aspects of censorship

March 12 was the World Day Against Cyber Censorship and Reporters Without Borders announced its latest list of “Enemies of the Internet,” which points a finger at China, among other authoritarian states.

Jason Ng from Kenengba tries to enrich the discussion by outlining various aspects of Chinese Internet censorship.

censor 1

1. Non-transparent censorship

A. Where comes the openness?

First of all, the blogger points out that whenever the Chinese government reacts to the issue of Internet censorship, it would state that “Internet in China is very open” and then support the statement with statistics such as “there are more than 3,800 million internet users in China”. However, the two statements do not carry any logical relation.

B. Unreasonable censorship

Secondly, he points out that main reason why people hate China's Internet censorship is because of its lack of transparency:

我曾经在新浪微博发布了关于“群众抗议番禺建立垃圾焚烧厂”一条信息,然后我收到新浪微博的管理员发的邮件说我这条信息含有非法内容,所以被删除了。然后我问,这条信息违反了具体哪条法律,新浪的审核人猿没有给我回复。同样的事情也发生在中国最大的SNS人人网。

I had once posted a message concerning the protest against the construction of incinerator in Panyu at Sina micro blog. Then I received a message from the webmaster that my message was deleted because of illegal content. I asked which regulation the message had violated, I did not get any answer. Similar incidents also happen in the biggest SNS in China.

网站审查人员之所以进行不透明的审查,是因为他们收到了政府部门不透明的规章。…
没有一个透明的规章,人们就不能去遵守所谓的制度。政府部门高兴的时候可以说“我爱共产党”这句话是褒义的,在不高兴的时候可以说你在讽刺它。你只能无奈地对着屏幕喊草泥马。

The reason why the web-censors are not transparent in their practice is because of the government's non-transparent regulation…

Once the regulation is in the dark, people cannot act according to the system. The government administration can react to the statement “I love CCP” positively when it is in good mood. When it is in bad mood, it will take it as an irony. And you can only swear “Grass-mud horse” to the computer screen.

C. Google's protest

The blogger believes the reason why Google is unhappy about China's censorship is also due to the problem of transparency:

而Google在中国,每天都收到通知要屏蔽这个网站屏蔽那个网站、屏蔽这个关键词屏蔽那个关键词,这些通知是没有规律可寻的,也没有法例列明。你要细问法例,得到的回答只会是“依法屏蔽”。

In China, Google.cn receives a lot of notifications concerning the blocking of websites and sensitive terms, and you can't identify any pattern from all these notifications, nor any legal explanation. All they say is “block according to the law”.

2. The Censor machine

The blogger has identified a number of censorship mechanism in China.

A. Self censorship

中国网民由于长期生活在信息审查之中,他们意识到很多文字用直接发送的方式会发送失败或很快被删除,于是他们在发布信息之前就对信息做了修改,要么将较为敏感的部分替换成意思相近的词语,要么删掉了这部分内容。

Chinese Internet users are aware of the blocking of sensitive terms. When they publish a message, they would express the term differently or delete the sensitive content.

B. Machine censor

In the case of machine censor, the users have to guess what are the sensitive terms whenever they publish an article. Here is what Internet users will encounter:

1)假设你输入了10000字,其中第100、101两字是敏感词。你点击了发布。
(2)然后你发现自己只发布了99个字,第100个字和后面9900个字都不见了。
(3)你在任何地方都找不到这丢失的9900个字,你需要重新敲打一次。
(4)你意识到第100、101个字是敏感词,于是你替换成其它字了,接着你重新发布一次。
(5)然后你又发现,发布出去后只剩下200个字,因为第201个字又是敏感词。

1. If you have written 10,000 words, in case the number 100 and 101 words are sensitive terms, and you publish it.
2. You will find out that you only manage to publish 99 words and all words from 100-9900 will disappear.
3. You can't recover the 9900 words again and you have to retype them.
4. Then you realize that the number 100 and 101 are sensitive, you change the expression and publish it again.
5. You then find out that you only manage to publish 200 words because the number 201 word is a sensitive term again…

Another machine censor example is the Green Dam:

当你的浏览器开了10多个标签,其中一个有一张肉色比较多的照片时,全部浏览器进程就会被绿坝结束。或许你在其中一个标签正在工作,不好意思,都没了。

When you have opened 10 pages in your browser. And then one of the pictures has a bigger portion of flesh color. Voila! All your pages will be closed suddenly. If you are working online in one of the pages, sorry, everything will be gone.

C. Human Flesh Censor

中国很多网站,尤其是门户网站都有一个专门的人工审查团队。饭否由于没有审查团队,“非法”信息泛滥,最终被死亡。据我所知,像新浪这样的网站,审查人员是数以百计的。
一个曾经在腾讯负责做审查的朋友告诉我,每当敏感日子,比如两会,他们的工作量就非常大,他们不但需要审查论坛、博客,就连用户的邮件他们都要随机抽查。在中国,邮件不算是隐私。
人肉审查团队在判断非法信息的时候没有一定的标准,在很多时候,他们只是根据自己或上级临时下发的文件去判断一条信息是否被屏蔽。对于他们来说,宁可杀错1000条,绝对不能放过1条。

Many websites, especially portal websites, have a team of censors. The reason why Fanfou was forced to close down is because it did not have a censor team. For websites like Sina, they have more than a hundred staffs working on censorship.

A friend who once worked in Tencent told me that whenever the time was sensitive, such as during the annual National People's Congress, their workload would increase. They had to censor BBS, blog, and randomly users’ email. In China, email communication has no privacy.

Human flesh censors do not have standard in their practice. Very often, they judge according to their supervisor's guidelines. And they'd rather delete 1000 than letting 1 sensitive message to surface.

D. The notification team

在中国,大多数网站底部都会有一个备案号,通过这个备案号,政府的审查人员可以很方便地联系到站长。
一般来说,当网管发现某网站上有“非法”信息的时候,他们首先会打电话给服务器的托管商,托管商再打电话联系站长删除所谓的“非法”信息。

Most websites have a license number so that the government can contact the webmaster whenever they want.

Whenever the Internet control administration finds an “illegal” information online, they would call up the data center and the data center would call up the webmaster to delete the “illegal” message.

E. Red Head document team

有时候,审查不仅仅是要求网站删掉某些内容,还包括统一转载某些稿件、统一将搜索结果指向官方网站。这种通知称之为红头文件,一般由网管办或新闻办下发。

Sometimes, the Internet censor would not only demand the website to delete content, but also demand them to re-post or direct search result to certain official websites. Such kind of notification is usually called Red Head paper. They are issued either by the Internet control administration or by the government information office.

censor 2

门户网站每天都会收到网管办下发的通知,这些通知的类型一般包括:
(1)不能报道什么
(2)应该报道什么
(3)头条应该放什么
(4)哪些新闻需要引导讨论
(5)哪些搜索关键词应该屏蔽或指向指定的结果
(6)哪些新闻必须统一采用新华网、人民网的稿件

For portal websites they would received notifications from the Internet control administration every day. The notifications are usually about:

1. What cannot be reported
2. What should be reported
3. What should the headline be
4. Which news should be channeled in the discussion
5. Which keywords should be blocked or redirected to a destinate search result
6. Which news story should be limited to the use of the Xinhua and People's Daily news sources

F. Mama Jury

censor 3

妈妈评审团的成员来自各行各业,有些人之前几乎没有接触过互联网。她们一边接受政府的培训,一边按要求每月提交一定数量的不适合儿童观看的内容。

Members of the Mama jury come from all walks of life. Some have very little online experience. They receive training from the government and regularly submit a certain number of web contents not suitable for children to the administration.

G. Tea and Talks

如果你一直在网上发布政府不愿意看到的言论,或者支持一些民间的运动,例如散步或者维权,你将会被邀请喝茶。
去年国庆前夕,一位北京的初中生在博客和Twitter表达了对国庆彩排的不满,认为这是浪费时间没有意义的。不久之后,他被国家报卫队的人邀请“喝茶”,他们威胁他,如果再在网上发布这些言论,他将不能在理想的高中念书。
在那之后,这位初中生在Twitter上安静了很长的时间。

If you keep publishing informations that make the government unhappy, or if you support citizen actions such as strolling or citizen rights campaign, you would receive a tea time invitation.

Last year before the national day, a middle school kid criticized the preparatory performance of the ceremony for wasting his time in Twitter. Very soon, he was invited by the national security police for tea session. They threatened him that if he continued to talk like that, he would not be able to enter a good high school.

For a very long period of time, that school kid has kept silent in twitter.

H. The Great Firewall

A picture is worth a thousand words:

censor 4

I. The 50 Cent Party

在多年的探索过程中,中国政府意识到光做减法是不行的,有时要做一做加法,要占领舆论高地。于是中国就出现了一种解决就业问题的职业–网络评论员,俗称五毛党。

当政府需要引导舆论的时候,五毛党就会成群出没。他们会在论坛、博客、门户甚至是报纸、电视等媒体发布一边倒的支持政府的言论。他们一般都是成群结队出动,很少单独行动…

After many years of censorship experiment, the Chinese government comes to aware that they have to channel the public opinion. That's how the setting up of Internet commentator position popped up and it also solve unemployment problem. These commentators are generally known as the 50 cent party.

Whenever the government needs to channel public opinion, the 50 cent party would take action. They would write and voice out pro-government opinions in BBS, blogs, portal websites or even in traditional media like newspapers and T.V. They usually take action together and seldom act alone.

In spite of so many sophisticated censorship mechanism, the blogger still believes that democracy will eventually come and replace the brutal control over speech and expression.

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