BCM222 – Visual Essay & Project Statement

Content Moderation Censorship In China

Research Support

Many social media platforms are tightening their guidelines in relation to the spread of misinformation, Freedom of speech is also an issue that has been brought up on the topic of moderation as it diminishes with the strict rules and regulations. Since China has built the content filtering regime controls that far outstrip than any other countries. they only allow citizens to see and search by the selected content. It censors content distributed through multiple ways, including Web pages, forums, social media platforms, messages. China’s censors have the ability to directly delete those violate comments and posts. There are 3 potential reasons for establishing a network of monitoring systems in China. First, political and regulatory restrictions, the Chinese Government need to ensure political acceptability of their content and also control over the populace.

Many foreign websites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. are blocked by China. As for the domestic app and website in China are also automatically blocked and deleted if the censors and internet police detect any content or words which is politically sensitive or seditious. (Hartman, 2020) For examples, Go, Hong Kong (香港加油) Support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and June 4 (六四) The date of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Besides, China temporarily shuts down a large number of websites during the specific period. Especially sites that concur with sensitive political events will be led a widely discussed, such as June 4, which Chinese internet users have jokingly as “Internet Maintenance Day.”

The above images in WeChat were testing by Citizen Lab (Knockel et al., 2020) It can show that WeChat monitors the usage records of all users, include the oversea users (such as Hong Kong or the United States etc.) More, users are forbidden to send any sensitive images or contents, because it might be deemed to inciting subversion of state power. These sensitive documents and images will be put on the account inspection list in China.

Figure 2: Number of deleted posts every day since April among a sample of between 50,000 and 60,000 users in mainland China. Source: https://www.economist.com/china/2014/10/02/hk-backspace-backspace

keyword blocking is one of the key methods exercised to censor in China, which blocked a user from posting text that contains sensitive words or expressions. China not only monitoring mobile phone text messages or call but also the internet and social media platform. Many reports finding a list of barred keywords that cause the connection of the server between the user and the Website (Bamman, O’Connor and Smith, 2012), when people express their opinion and forward sensitive information can be charges of “making rumours” and “endangering public safety”.(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, 2008)

Figure 3: Refinitiv deployed filter to block Reuters reports as Hong Kong protests raged.
Source: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/hongkong-protests-media/

In figure 3, When illegal or sensitive content is detected, the surveillance system blocks the sending of the message and keeps a record. Specialist staff and internet police will monitor images and multi-media contents around the clock and shielding for those sensitive keywords. The report analyses the total number of blocked articles. From 30 August 30 to 20 November, there are a total of 251 articles covering the politically sensitive keywords, 196 articles were blocked by Refinitiv. (Stecklow, 2019) Therefore, news and media have censored in China under political pressure from the Chinese government.

While global citizens can communicate, sharing information and express their views or aspirations all over the world. However, China is contrary to the world, they not only to create a great firewall and censorship but also employed at least 2 million online censors. (Campbell, 2016) The great firewall and censorship to shielding large numbers of sensitive contents, even large–scale analysis of political content censorship in social media. The Chinese government states that it has the legal right to monitor and control the Internet’s content within their territory. In my point of view, content censorship in China does incursion the right to free speech.

Figure 4: China is rated Not Free with an internet freedom score of 10 in Freedom on the Net 2019. Source:https://freedomhouse.org/report/china-media-bulletin/2020/china-media-bulletin-2019-internet-freedom-trends-shutterstock

Beijing spend multibillion-dollar to extend the influence of local run media, at the same time, China has increase effort to silence critical voices and reporting oversea. Chinese Government Incentivizing to self-censorship and putting political pressure on journalists and media industries, it may limit freedom of speech and freedom of the press. (Cook and Truong, 2019) The report in Freedom House had rated China as the globe worst internet freedom for the fourth year. (Figure 4) The overall score reflects the poor level of press and speech freedom in China, it restricts the freedoms and basic human rights such as freedom of expression and media.

Since China restricts access accurate data and information by blocking data flows, the censorship system creates berries for journalists reporting on politic and national security problem. General people can only search and get information on a single perspective due to the content censorship. Besides, many Chinese journalists are routinely harassed, silence, threatened, thrown in jail, such as Liu Xiaobo, Gao Yu, etc. When the journalist is afraid to report on certain topics, the entire society will lack understanding and awareness of relevant policies and issues. The limited access to information and lack of resources led to more difficult and hindered journalists to go in-depth to investigative, it can seriously infringe freedom of the press.

China needs to abolish content censorship and the system of Party-managed media, also lift a ban on the independent newspaper. Chinese Government need to set legislation that guarantees media freedom and expression, in order to achieve press freedom. The cornerstones of a democratic society, media should not be affected by public power and succumb to the censorship system, press freedoms should implement freedom of speech and promotes transparency.

Nowadays, we can live in a free and democratic country which allow us to express our opinion and enjoy the free flow of information. We need to ensure the journalistic media can be able to freely report and comment and protect freedom of thought also develop the power of critical thinking for the general public.

Communication Through Images

Communicating through images can be more flexible than writing a paragraph, an image is easy for everyone to understand despite cultural, ethnic or language differences among people. Besides, it is more engagement and simplicity also more accuracy. “A picture says more than a thousand words”, an image, the graph can tell much more information than text alone and it can show the reality and the situation of censorship which happened in China. As the image is shown below, in the right-hand side, a user in Hong Kong can freely access and search any political post about Hong Kong protest, However, on the left-hand side, people in China are not allowed to search any post related to Hong Kong extradition bill, because of the content blocking by Chinese Government.

Signe Wilkinson

Communication through visual image allowed me to search for illustrations rather than just photographed images. For example the above political cartoon for Chinese, it delivers information more directly which illustrate the Chinese Goverment limited freedom of expression in China. You can be amusing by this funny images, but the main purpose is to persuade you to think about current situation and problems.

Reference List:

Bamman, D., O’Connor, B. and Smith, N., 2012. Censorship and deletion practices in Chinese social media. First Monday, [online] 17(3). Available at: <https://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3943&gt; [Accessed 16 Jun. 2020].

Campbell, C., 2016. The Architect of China’s Great Firewall Was Himself Blocked by the Firewall. Time. [online] Available at: <https://time.com/4283248/china-great-firewall-fang-binxing-censorship/&gt; [Accessed 15 Jun. 2020].

Chinese Human Rights Defenders, 2008. How China Censors the Internet and Monitors Your Telecommunications | Chinese Human Rights Defenders. [online] Nchrd.org. Available at: <https://www.nchrd.org/2008/08/how-china-censors-the-internet-and-monitors-your-telecommunications/&gt; [Accessed 15 Jun. 2020].

Cook, S. and Truong, M., 2019. China Media Bulletin: 2019 internet freedom trends, Shutterstock censorship, Huawei “safe cities” (No. 140). [online] Freedom House. Available at: <https://freedomhouse.org/report/china-media-bulletin/2020/china-media-bulletin-2019-internet-freedom-trends-shutterstock&gt; [Accessed 17 Jun. 2020].

Hartman, L., 2020. In China, you can’t say these words | ShareAmerica. [online] ShareAmerica. Available at: <https://share.america.gov/in-china-you-cant-say-these-words/&gt; [Accessed 14 Jun. 2020].

Knockel, J., Parsons, C., Ruan, L., Xiong, R., Crandall, J. and Deibert, R., 2020. “We Chat, They Watch: How International Users Unwittingly Build up WeChat’s Chinese Censorship Apparatus”. Citizen Lab Research Report No. 127. [online] University of Toronto, pp.5-49. Available at: <https://citizenlab.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Report127-wechattheywatch-web.pdf&gt; [Accessed 15 Jun. 2020].

Stecklow, S., 2019. Refinitiv used filter to block Reuters reports on Hong Kong protests. [online] Reuters. Available at: <https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/hongkong-protests-media/&gt; [Accessed 16 Jun. 2020].

The Economist, 2014. HK backspace, backspace. [image] Available at: <https://www.economist.com/china/2014/10/02/hk-backspace-backspace&gt; [Accessed 17 Jun. 2020].

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