Sunday, February 10, 2013

After Celine Dion Performs "Jasmine Flower," Sina Weibo Stops Blocking Related Search Results

On February 9, 2013, Celine Dion performed the Chinese folk song "Jasmine Flower" (茉莉花) on China Central Television's 2013 Spring Festival Gala. Here are translations of some users' posts  on Sina Weibo from that night:
What song was just sung on the #New Year's Gala"#? --In accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, the performance lyrics have not been displayed.
#春晚# 刚才唱了什么歌曲?——根据相关法律法规和政策,演唱歌曲结果未予显示。
If this was in 2011, you would be arrested and sent to re-education through labor for saying "Jasmine Flower."
On February 20, 2011 China Jasmine Flower, on February 20, 2013, Jasmine Flower is sung on the New Year's Gala, we are witnessing history . . . .
2011年2月20日 中国茉莉花,2013年2月10日,茉莉花在春晚唱响,我们算是见证了历史么……
Wouldn't you say that in 2011 Jasmine Flower was a banned song? Is it possible the organization has forgotten the Jasmine Flower movement?
"Jasmine Flower" has been a sensitive term since February 2011. The reason for this was that, on the afternoon of February 17, 2011, the following statement began being passed around on Twitter:
The date of the inaugural China "Jasmine Revolution" rally has been set, February 20, 2011 (Sunday), the assembly points for every major city in the country will be announced the day before on the Boxun News website, here's hoping everyone finds out.
This screenshot, taken on February 19, 2011, shows that a search on Sina Weibo for "Jasmine Flower"  returned no results, just a censorship notice.

On February 19, the locations of the rallies were announced. The Beijing rally was to take place in front of the McDonalds in Wangfujing, a popular shopping district several blocks away from Tiananmen Square. The following screenshots show that Sina Weibo began censoring search results for "Wangfujing McDonalds" (王府井 麦当劳) on February 20.

By 2013 Sina Weibo was no longer censoring the above-captioned queries. Nevertheless, queries containing the term "Jasmine Flower" plus certain other terms seeming only returned results from within the preceding several days. The following screenshots show that, within hours after Celine Dion performed "Jasmine Flower" on CCTV, Sina Weibo stopped imposing this block, allowing users to access tens of thousands of previously unsearchable results.
"Jasmine Flower 2011"
"Jasmine Flower Wangfujing" 
"Jasmine Flower McDonalds"
Sina Weibo continues, however, to completely censor certain related queries. This screenshot shows that, as of February 10, 2013, Sina Weibo was still censoring search results for "Jasmine Revolution."

These screenshots, taken on February 10, 2013, show Baidu search results for "Jasmine Flower" (no censorship notice), "China Jasmine Flower" (censorship notice saying some search results have not been displayed), and "China Jasmine Revolution" (censorship notice saying no results have been displayed).