Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review: Baidu's Top Searches Include Censored Terms

Baidu has just posted its Top 10 Fastest-Rising Search Terms and Top 10 Social Search Terms for 2012. Numbers 1 and 3 on the former are "Wang Lijun Incident" ( 王立军事件) and "Bo Xilai Removed From Posts" (薄熙来被免职). Number 1 on the latter is "Bogu Kailai" (薄谷开来).

Regarding Gu Kailai, Baidu had this to say:
Gu Kailai, wife of fallen Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, was the Lady MacBeth of this dramatic year politically. When she was publicly named on a CCTV1 news broadcast as being “strongly suspected” in the murder of British national Neil Heywood in Chongqing, many found it odd that all references to her included her husband’s surname, appended to hers as a kind of double surname. Speculation was that this was a none-too-subtle attempt to tie her husband more closely to her misdeeds. Searches for her peaked again around the time of her trial, when many netizens believed that a body double had been used in court. This has since been generally disproven. Gu (or Bogu if you prefer) is now serving a sentence after her conviction in the murder of Heywood.
Baidu's censorship of searches related to Gu Kailai is covered extensively here - As these screenshots show, as of December 25 Baidu continues to censor searches for "Bogu Kailai," restricting web search results to its strict white list of about a dozen websites controlled by the central government and the Communist Party, banning Tieba forums, and censoring searches on its Zhidao Q&A product.

 Regarding Wang Lijun Baidu wrote:

The dramatic fall of Bo Xilai was triggered in February when Bo’s hand-picked top cop in Chongqing was suddenly demoted, then fled in disguise from Chongqing to Chengdu, where he sought refuge in the U.S. Consulate. There, according to many sources, he presented information on the murder of Neil Heywood, a British citizen with close ties to the Bo family, at the hands of Bo’s wife Gu Kailai. And so began the most dramatic real-life political thriller that China had seen in decades. Wang went on trial in September, and was convicted of abuse of power, bribe-taking, attempting to defect, and “bending the law for selfish ends.” He was given a 15-year sentence. Since then, many sordid details of his tenure as Public Security Bureau chief in Chongqing, where he oversaw the “Strike the Black” campaign against organized crime in the megacity. China’s muckraking Southern Metropolis Weekly magazine recently published a whopping 40-page exposé about Wang (the version linked to here is from Caixin, courtesy of Bill Bishop’s excellent Sinocism daily newsletter), excerpts of which you can read in a translation from the South China Morning Post in English here and here.
Baidu's censorship of searches related Wang Lijun is covered extensively here - As of December 25, Baidu was no longer censoring searches for "Wang Lijun." As the screenshots show, however, Baidu was censoring searches for "Wang Lijun Southern Metropolis Weekly" (王立军 南都周刊) - the publisher of the "40 page expose" that it recommended to its readers.

Finally, regarding Bo Xilai, Baidu said:
The princeling son of revolutionary immortal Bo Yibo, Bo Xilai—never appearing in print without the trusty descriptors “flamboyant,” “charismatic,” and “populist”—rose to prominence as the mayor of Dalian, governor of Liaoning Province, Minister of Commerce, and finally Party Secretary of Chongqing. By March, when the Two Meetings were held in Beijing, the writing was clearly on the wall: Bo was out.  His unraveling had been set in motion when his wife, Gu Kailai, poisoned Britisher Neil Heywood to death in a three-star hotel in Chongqing, and it was riveting. When CCTV announced that Gu was “strongly suspected” of the murder and had been placed under arrest, and minutes later announced that Bo had been removed from his position in Chongqing, China knew that it was in for a rare political spectacle. See “the Wang Lijun Affair,” above. Highly recommended: John Garnaut’s book, The Rise and Fall of the House of Bo.
As of December 25, Baidu continued to censor searches for "Bo Xilai" in Chinese, restricting search results to its broad white list. As a result, even though Baidu "highly recommended" a book by John Garnaut about Bo Xilai, it provided no search results for "薄熙来 John Garnaut," just a censorship notice. Bing, however, provided thousands of results.