Monday, July 18, 2011

Two China Media Figures Quit Sina Weibo Over Censorship

On July 14, two China-based bloggers, Song Shinan (宋石男) and Jia Jia (贾葭), simultaneously published announcements on their blogs that they would no longer be posting to Sina's Weibo. As the screenshots below show, their blog posts (which linked to one-another) were deleted in less than an hour. 

The articles were also deleted from other blogging services where they had been reposted.

Jia's post was entitled "Everyone is a Victim-Dear Sina Weibo" (每个人都是受害者——致新浪微博), and it was originally available here: Here is an excerpt:
It was around February 2010 when two Sina Weibo editors repeatedly called asking me to open a Sina Weibo account. In early 2009 I had opened a Twitter account around the time of the big CCTV building fire, and I wasn't particularly interested in domestic copy-cat products, but the inability of so many friends to circumvent the Great Firewall left me with no choice but to try Weibo, so I agreed to register. The address was / jajia, and my verified identity was "GQ" Magazine Senior Editor.
. . . .
In early December last year, because of a certain porcelain brand, I was unilaterally blocked for 15 days. I was the only person who could see what I wrote, others couldn't see it (and many other users had been unilaterally designated in this manner). In May of this year, because of some black seeds, my speech was censored for 26 long days (there are even more users who are like this). In the past half year my ID has been hidden and my account has not been searchable by other users. On June 12, after I merely reposted some photos of the Zengcheng incident I was immediately banned from logging into my account.
I want to particularly note that, during those latter two incidents Netease, Tencent, Sohu, and Phoenix did not block or delete my speech. Those familiar with Internet management should know that when it comes to microblog censorship, there is only one set of requirements, and Sina Weibo wouldn't be subjected to stricter orders or a broad blocking scope. The conclusion is therefore obvious that during the latter two incidents the scope of Sina Weibo's censorship was self-imposed.
As a someone who works in media, I have a deep understanding of where the bottom lines are when it comes to speech in China. Most of the time when a given topic becomes the subject of heated public discussion, certain concessions will be made in the scope of censorship. If the volcano of public opinion is rashly kindled, the consequences will be unthinkable. Its a game of struggle and compromise. In other words, when everyone takes a step forward, the bottom line will take a step back. 
. . . .

Song's post was entitled "Why I Left Sina Weibo" (我为什么离开新浪微博), and it was originally available here: Here are some excerpts:

In the past I have asserted that the structure of Sina Weibo and the structure of Chinese society have much in common. Now I think I only go it half right. It would be more accurate to put it this way: The user structure of Sina Weibo and the structure of Chinese society have much in common in that the means by which Sina Weibo is ruled has much in common with the means by which totalitarians rule.
What are the means by which totalitarians rule? Please allow me to quote a paragraph: "Don't let them have judgment. Just give them cars, motorcycles, stars, stimulating music, fashionable clothes, and a sense of competitiveness. Deprive them of their thinking and root them in obedience to the orders of their leaders. Let them think that any idea that is different from the groups is the enemy of the public." It was not Cao Guowei or Chen Tong who said this, it was Hitler.
Of course, Sina Weibo is also advancing with the times, and its ruling method is rich in Chinese characteristics. Sina CEO Cao Guowei once honestly confessed: "When a sensitive topic crops up, Sina can creatively limit the content of conversations instead of deleting it entirely." This is like a rapist saying that when he encounters a stunner, he can creatively go down on them instead of sticking it right in.
I am going to further expose this "creatively restricting the content of conversations." It is nothing more than these four: 1, deleting posts 2, masking posts 3, banning speech 4, deleting accounts.
As for deleting posts there isn't much to say - its the same everywhere. The treacherous thing about Sina is that they rarely use the method of directly deleting posts, but use masks and bans.
Masking is a creative invention of Sina, with both hard and soft masking. Hard masking is when only you can see on your own posts, and they won't appear on your followers' TL (timeline). Even if they click on your Weibo page, they can't see it; soft masking is when the post won't appear in your followers' TL, but if they click on your Weibo page, they can see it. Masking posts is a crafty, bloodless murder, a monumental restriction on the spread of posts of which the parties remain completely oblivious.
Banning speech is yet another creative invention of Sina. Getting banned is also called "getting locked up in the small black house." Every Weibo sent by the banned person will be reviewed and then released or delayed. Even if it is released, it has almost zero chance of spreading because it tends to fall out of the TL of the followers within a few hours of publication. It is worth mentioning that it is not only the posts of the banned person that will be delayed, but also their responses and replies.
From Sina's perspective banning speech carries with it two main benefits: 1. It saves labor costs. Sina has thousands of Weibo network administrators, but in the face of the vast ocean of public wars there will always be unstoppable forces. 2. It forces users to self-censor. This is particularly despicable. In order to avoid being banned, users often self-censor their speech. Those who have been banned are even more inclined to develop fear and depression. When they are once again able to post Weibo, they will inevitably have a "grateful heart" and a "nervous heart."
Banning speech may seem to be part of the national condition, when it fact it is actually a lynching. It is like the next big move in the central government's game, after it has quietly raising the stakes in this little corner it will eventually easily wipe the board of those who fail to fall in line. One can more or less understand why Sina Weibo deletes and masks posts, because they have to protect themselves. It is also understandable that businessmen would be willing to arbitrarily delete and mask, because the little bureaucrats must protect their rice bowls. But banning speech crosses the line and is incomprehensible and unacceptable. Because banning speech is a great insult to people, and it is an arbitrary violation of people's fundamental rights. There is no essential difference between this kind deprivation of personal liberty and something like reeducation through labor.
Today, Sina Weibo can ban me from speaking because I posted "sensitive Xinhua News" it can ban him because he criticized Sina and ban her because she had a conflict of interest with Sina. It may ban you tomorrow for any reason whatsoever. An oligopoly that hides behind "following orders from Internet Control" can abuse its power and control all netizens without any reason, without having to follow any rules or accept any punishment.
Therefore, on Sina Weibo, netizens who have been banned for a long time or had their IDs directly deleted have formed a unique phenomenon called the “reincarnation party” (registering a new ID, adding the words "II, III" after their original user name). Xiao Yu, who has been reincarnated 40 or 50 times, is one of the representative figures. However, Xiao Yu finally couldn't bear it anymore. At the end of last month, he spent nearly 8 hours, and deleted all of his 8,539 microblogs (perhaps nearly 18,000 mouse clicks) and left Sina. Xiao Yu is a well-known person, and his reincarnation or departure could draw some attention every time. But there are still a large number of unknown reincarnates who can only die silently, live silently, and be filled with perseverance throughout.
. . . .
Let it be known that we must fight. "An orderly society cannot rely solely on a reign of silence built on people's fear of punishment to maintain it." The same is true of Weibo.
[N.B. This is a direct translation. However, it appears to be referring to the concurrence of Justice Brandeis in Whitney v. California - "[O]rder cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction."]
Let it be known that we must choose, "There are only two choices for people, either to recognize that existence must be prioritized over freedom, or to recognize that freedom must be prioritized over existence." My choice is the latter.
Let it be known that we must unite, "No man is an island." If Sina silences you, it silences everyone, because freedom is indivisible, as long as a single person is enslaved, there is no freedom.
As mentioned above, my friend Jia Jia and I left Sina Weibo today. Sina thinks that everyone can surrender their dignity and put up with their arbitrary torture for a tiny and  pathetic opportunity to have their voice heard. But I am sorry, we can't.
 So I am leaving, for those friends who remain on Sina Weibo, you don't have to be regretful or sentimental. I believe that in the near future, there will be more people like me. And like me they will go online like those who don't have Sina. 
我来进一步揭穿这种“创造性地限制谈话内容”的手法。无非四种:1、删帖 2、屏蔽贴 3、禁言 4、删ID。
. . . .

Translation: Huang Xuqin and Wang Jianbing Inciting Subversion Indictment

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