Sunday, April 27, 2014

China Launches Porn Crackdown (Again), Sina Gets Called Out (Again), Apologizes (Again), Loses Licenses (That's A First)

On April 21, 2014, the state sponsored Global Times published an article entitled “Chinese Websites Vow No Porn.” Some excerpts:
Major Chinese websites have vowed not to attempt to exploit pornographic content to boost their click rates, amid a national crackdown on online pornography.

The websites, including 15 affiliated to state news organizations, and six commercial websites such as, and pledged support for the crackdown at a conference held by the State Internet Information Office (SIIO) on Monday.
On April 24, Xinhua published an article entitled “China's Hit by Ban After Porn Offense.” Some excerpt:
China's Internet giant will be stripped of its online publication license, a penalty that might partially ban its operations, after articles and videos on the site fell prey to the country's high-profile anti-porn movement.

According to a statement released on Thursday by the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications, 20 articles and four videos posted on were confirmed to have contained lewd and pornographic content following "a huge amount" of public tip-offs.

As of result, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television decided to revoke the company's two crucial licenses on Internet publication and audio and video dissemination and impose "a large number of fines."
The same day, Sina published the following apology:
Statement of Apology

Today, the media has revealed a problem in that Sina's Book Channel Original Novels linked to, and some content on Sina's Video Channel blog included, content that was suspected of being obscene and pornographic. We feel deeply distressed about this, and to the Internet users and society generally we express our most sincere apologies.

Notwithstanding our ongoing efforts, nevertheless there has indeed been some content on Sina that was not blocked, as well as negligent oversight. As one of China's most influential web sites, we have not been able to fulfill our responsibility to protect our users, and for this we are deeply regretful and ashamed.

As regards the severe sanctions which the relevant organs have imposed on us, we will strictly carry them out and absolutely will not try to shift responsibility.

After the problem was exposed, our company immediately set up a dedicated working group and ordered relevant departments and relevant teams to carry out a thorough investigation and rectify and reform: First, those responsible will be dealt with severely, and will voluntarily admit their errors to the relevant organs, and undertake profound self-criticism. Second, the reasons for this will be uncovered and lessons will be learned, and a self-examination and self-rectification will be undertaken of all content on the web site. Third, a reform and rectification will be undertaken, and effective mechanisms for examination will be established in order to ensure this kind of think will not happen again.

We are currently engaged in close communication and coordination with the relevant organs in order to allow our reform and rectification work to be more focused, and at the same time reduce losses to relevant business operations as much as possible. Finally, as always, we appeal to Internet users to provide us with oversight and criticism. At the same time, we are also willing, together with all other web sites, to resolutely act in concert and support the nation's "Cleaning the Web 2014" campaign, carry forward the main theme, arouse positive energy, and work together to build a cool and bright Internet space.

May 24, 2014





同时,我们正与主管部门进行密切的沟通和配合,以使我们的整改工作更有针对性,同时使相关业务的损失降到最低。 最后,呼吁广大网友一如既往地对我们进行监督和批评。同时,我们也愿意和所有网站一道,坚决响应和支持国家“扫黄打非,净网2014”行动,弘扬主旋律,激发正能量,共同建设一个清朗的网络空间 。


This is not the first time Sina has apologized for pornographic content on its web site. On January 5, 2009, the State Council Information Office, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology,  Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Culture, State Administration for Industry and Commerce, State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, and General Administration of Press and Publication held a teleconference to announce that their agencies were launching a “Campaign to Rectify Internet Indecency.” The same day the SCIO's web site published an article entitled "Seven Agencies Launch Crackdown on Prurient Internet Trends" (七部委开展整治互联网低俗之风专项行动), which cited Cai Mingzhao as stating:
Some websites exploit gaps in policies and regulations and try to dodge responsibility, they use various means to disseminate content that is low brow and vulgar, even obscene, severely corrupting the online atmosphere. Online indecency is spreading unchecked, and is seriously harming the physical and mental health of a large number of young people, it is a disaster for numerous households, endangering posterity and directly harming the personal interests of the masses. All aspects of society are focused on this, and the reaction of the masses is strong, with many parents calling out to “save the children,” and strongly demanding the Party and the government to adopt resolute measures to resolve the problem. 
The same day, the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre issued a list of 19 websites with “a large quantity of indecent content that violates social mores and harms the physical and mental health of the youth.” Topping the list were Google, Baidu, Sina, Sohu, Tencent, NetEase,, and

On January 6, 2009, Baidu, Google, NetEase (, Sina, Sohu (, and Tencent ( issued statements regarding their inclusion on the government’s list of websites with pornographic content. Here is Sina’s 2009 apology:
On January 5, 2009, the SCIO and six other agencies launched a campaign dedicated to cleansing the web of vulgar content. With respect to our faults and the negative impact these faults may have had on Internet users, Sina feels deeply distressed and views this as very important. We have promptly launched a comprehensive cleanup, and are carrying out investigations, revisions, and closures of that content which has already been shown to have problems. We are strengthening content oversight procedures and requirements, and those who are responsible will be severely dealt with.
Sina would especially like to express its most sincere regrets to Internet users for the problem of indecent content on websites. We earnestly commit to you: From this day forward we will adopt effective measures to completely and thoroughly remove indecent and other harmful content, we will take the initiative against the winds of indecency, clean up the Internet environment, and work hard to build a healthy and civilized Internet culture. 

For more on the 2009 anti-porn campaign, see here: A Chronicle of China's State Run Media Attacks on Apple in 2013, With Some Historical Perspective.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sina and Baidu Censor Information About "Old Tigers": Retired Senior Officials Targeted in Corruption Investigations

On March 31, 2014, the state sponsored Xiaoxiang Morning Post published an article entitled "Anti-Corruption Storm Blowing Toward Retired 'Old Tigers.'" (反腐风暴刮向退休“老老虎”). Some excerpts:
Retirement is no longer a "shield" for corrupt officials, as the anti-corruption storm taking the offensive against "old tigers." On the evening of March 28, the Guangdong Party Discipline Inspection Commission announced that Ping Limei, former chairman of the Maoming Political Consultative Conference, was being investigated on suspicion of severely violating discipline. At the time he had already been retired for two years. Recently, another retired "old tiger" who was investigated was Gu Qihai, a former department head at the Ministry of Land and Resources. After his retirement he took a position with a "not well known" association with close ties to enterprises.

On April 4, 2014, the state sponsored Beijing News published an article entitled "82 People Felled in Two Rounds of Discipline Inspection" (两轮巡视82人落马). Some excerpts:
According to a People's Daily report, since May 2013, 20 teams representing the central authorities have launched two rounds of discipline inspection covering 11 provinces and nine agencies. Based on incomplete statistics, since the inspections began, information regarding "case investigations" on the website of the Central Discipline Inspection Commission indicates that 82 people were investigated in 13 locations, of which nine were provincial level officials.
. . . .
Of the 82 people investigated by the 20 teams during the two rounds of inspection,  besides 16 for whom no age information was available, 41 were born in the 50's. Of those, at most 11 are 58 (born in 1956) and another 5 are 59 (born in 1955), far more than any other age group. In other words, besides the 16 for whom their ages can't be determined, of the 66 others, 16 people who were investigated were aged 58-59, or 24%.

After the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China [November 2012], retired senior officials have been under constant investigation, in what commentators have called the "Anti-Corruption Storm Blowing Toward Retired 'Old Tigers.'" Of the aforementioned 41 people from the "50s," Chen Bohuai, former deputy chairman of the Hubei People's Political Consultative Conference, is just one of those "Old Tigers."

. . . .

These screenshots were taken on March 19, 2014, and show that Sina Weibo and Baidu were censoring searches for “Old Tigers" (老老虎).

Monday, April 21, 2014

More Details Emerge of Internet Police Involved in Nationwide Money-For-Censorship Scheme

As noted previously in this blog, during the last year China’s state run media has exposed at least two cases involving police officers in Beijing and Hainan who were entrusted with censoring online content, and who abused their authority by taking bribes to order web masters to delete information that did not violate any of China’s laws, regulations, or policies. See:
On April 17, 2014, the state sponsored Southern Weekend published an article entitled “Internet Police Bribe Internet Police: Deleting Posts for Their Bosses” (网警贿赂网警:替领导删帖). That article provided additional details on the Hainan case mentioned above. Specifically:
  • The full name of the Hainan police officer at the center of the scandal: Wei Yining (魏一宁).
  • The total number of Internet police who paid Officer Wei bribes to delete posts: 11.
  • Locations whose Internet police participated in the money-for-censorship scheme: Hunan, Liaoning, Qingdao, Nanjing.
  • Wei Yining Trial: Wei was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The court judgment (available here) was issued in December 13, but was only being reported on this month.
Some excerpts from the article:
Gao Qiang, a senior administrator at Kaidi Net, told this reporter that, usually the Haikou Internet police use QQ to issue deletion orders. After Gao Qiang received an order from the Internet police's common account, all he would see is an order, and there was simply no way to verify whether the order had been subject to any  legal process.

"Sometimes we would receive an order, and we would have some doubts and would follow up. The issuing Internet police officer would only say that its an order sent down from the Public Security Bureau." After a while, even though there were suspicions that certain posts should not be subjected to an order, Gao Qiang and his coworkers just got used to following orders.

Similarly, at Tianya, as soon as they received an order, the "Legal Enforcement Bureau" would chose to enforce the Internet police's order by deleting posts or shutting an account.

Orders were authoritative and could not be questioned. Even if an administrator felt doubts, they frequently did not dare question the issuer as to whether the order had been reviewed and approved by leadership, or if it was personally issued by the Internet police officer.

Anyone who had authority over the Internet could send down an order to delete a post. With respect to posts about the government that were negative, the most common demand was "Don't let them garner too much attention." "Currently the orders that come down are not in any written document, they are all issued as messages in a QQ group." Gao Qiang believes that this was a major reason why Wei Yining could use his public office for his personal gain.

Post deletion orders were not always issued in so undisciplined a manner. Many years ago, there was standard government document for orders issued to web sites. Tang Tao, a director of an Internet oversight team for a municipal government in Hunan, told a reporter with the Southern Weekend that, several years ago, when it came to post deletion, there were strict  standards and procedures regarding what kind of posts could be deleted and how they could be deleted. They mainly deleted certain posts that were unhealthy, threatening social stability, and defaming third parties.

As Tang Tao explained it, in order to delete a post, it was necessary to first submit a report to a supervisor and to the senior Internet oversight department. Afterwards, an Internet Information Registration Form was filled in, and after specifying evidence and other measures, they would write up an Internet Sensitive Information Handling Circular, and an official would sign and chop it. After these procedures were completed Web sites would be notified by phone and fax.

Based on Tang Tao's understanding, there are many kind of orders that Internet police can issue, including deletion, filtering, temporary suspension, and shutting down. Post deletion order are extremely sensitive: they must be implemented immediately.

Southern Weekend has learned from reviewing a written order from the Internet Illegal Information Inspection Management System of the Binhai New District Public Security Bureau in Tianjin that, based on the system's technical specifications, within one minute after illegal information is detected, the system will issue an SMS alert to webmasters under their jurisdiction. The system will automatically perform a check within one minute after the website has deleted the illegal information. The system also requires that Level 1 Illegal Information must be detected within 10 minutes and dealt with within 20 minutes; Level 2 Illegal Information must be detected within 20 minutes and dealt with within 40 minutes; and Level 3 Illegal Information must be detected within 60 minutes and dealt with within 20 hours.

Long-time Tianya editor Liu Liu told this reporter that, Tianya's "Law Enforcement Bureau" has 50 people. About six people handle government orders, and they work on three shifts around the clock for orders that come down from the Internet police on the internal RTX system. "The time limit for clear instructions to delete posts, for example, saying XX post must be deleted immediately, is ten minutes." Liu said that, if they do not delete a post in that time, they will be called out by name in the online group by the Internet police who issued the order: "What do you think you're doing being so slow."
. . . .
The defense lawyer claimed that, while Wei Yining received financial gain from others, nevertheless what got deleted were posts that had a severely negative impact on the government, and there was no attempt to seek any other benefits for third parties, so his actions did not constitute accepting bribes.

The Internet oversight team supervisor Tang Tao said that many people would use that kind of relationship to find a local Internet police officer in the hope getting in touch with an Internet police officer that could get posts deleted. "For example, an official in a local agency sees some negative talk about himself or his agency in a Tianya forum, so he will think to use this method to get the post deleted."

Tang Tao believes that these Internet police officers were only working on behalf of their superiors, and in some cases they might relate to classified matters, and therefore the public cannot participate in oversight of Internet police work. This lead to Internet police like Wei Yining using their public office for personal gain, using the law enforcement authority they held to provide a natural screen for their rent-seeking and money-making.

The judge in the case specifically noted in the court judgment: "Not every post that has a negative impact on the government is illegal or infringing. In accordance with the spirit of the law and requirements of government administration in accordance with the law, the government also has the obligation to accept public oversight. By receiving financial gain for deleting posts without first having undergone review and approval, he in fact weakened the effectiveness of public oversight, and in reality sought to gain benefit from the organizations and agencies at whom the posts were targeted."










. . . .



The article was originally available here - - but as these screenshots show, it was deleted within hours.

As this screenshot shows, no link to article appears on the Southern Weekend web site.
 On April 18, the state sponsored Beijing News published an editorial by Zeng Ying (曾颖) about the Southern Weekend article entitled “How Can We Restrain Local Governments That Illegal Delete Posts” (地方政府非法删帖的需求怎么遏制). Some excerpts:
The [Southern Weekend] report noted that, everything that got deleted was "essentially negative information about government agencies that local governments did not want to be seen." So it appears that certain local officials' understanding of online public sentiment remains stuck in the archaic times of the broadcast age, believing deleting posts and silencing voices is the most effective way to block the spread of information they don't like. When they run into an incident in their jurisdiction, whether its justified or not, their first reaction is to make it disappear.
. . . .
There is a lack of standards in way the Internet is governed today, and this is the "objective reason" for the flood of illegal post deletion demands from officials. As for the employees who participate in and carry out post deletions, because there are no operating rules that clearly and concretely delineate whether one's own behavior is "legal" or "illegal," or where there are rules they leave far too much room unrestrained discretion, the result is a lack of guidance to the point of sinking into an abyss of criminality. There are those among them, including defense attorneys, who self-righteously believe that what they are doing is a "public service." And for those who do not see the law but only the so-called public service of their superiors, the main issue is relevant laws and regulations are not comprehensive, and the conflict between following orders and obeying they law is creating a disastrous  outcome.

. . . .

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On Eve of IPO, Sina Weibo Deploys New Whitelist Censorship Method When Another Official Commits Suicide

On April 10, 2014, the state sponsored Global Times published an article entitled “Official Suicide Wave Creates Need for Greater Transparency.” Some excerpts:
Xu Ye'an, deputy director of the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, an agency to which citizens utter grievances over injustices or disputes such as illegal land grabs or official misconduct, reportedly killed himself Tuesday in his office. The cause remains unknown, but sources close to Xu told media that Xu was not in good health lately.

The case came amid several similar stories that involved Chinese officials recently. Zhou Yu, a senior police official in Chongqing and a key figure in former Communist Party chief Bo Xilai's crackdown on organized crime, was found hanging in a hotel room. Police announced that He Gaobo, deputy director of a construction management office in Fenghua, Zhejiang Province, had committed suicide and it remains unknown if his death relates to the fatal collapse of a residential building in the city a few days ago.
. . . .
As the country's anti-graft campaign proceeds vigorously and demands over officials increase, officials from the top down, while their career future still depends on their political performance, have felt mounting pressure. That's why being an official in China is viewed as a highly risky job nowadays.

Many China watchers have observed this trend in China and pointed out loopholes in the system of China's officialdom. The best way to clear away public doubts is for authorities to publish convincing information relating to official deaths and bring enlightened transparency. Only this way can they restore public trust.
These screenshots show that on April 11 Sina Weibo was censoring searches for “Xu Ye'an” (徐业安), limiting results to “Media Reports” (媒体报道) and “Famous People’s Perspectives” (名人观点), but censoring results from “Real Time Weibos” (实时微博). By April 19, Sina Weibo was completely censoring search results for “Xu Ye’an.”

Saturday, April 19, 2014

China’s Weibos and News Sites Censor Information About Shoe Factory Strike in Dongguan

On April 15, 2014, the state sponsored Global Times reported:
Thousands of workers in South China's largest shoe company marched in protest in the city of Dongguan, Guangdong Province over contract and social security benefit issues.
. . . .
The workers were unhappy the company did not pay social security or housing fund contributions based on their real salaries but the minimum amount instead, explained Zhang Zhirui, a legal consultant at a non-governmental labor dispute service in Shenzhen.

The company said it planned to raise the social security contribution in May as requested by workers, but many workers felt dissatisfied when their salaries dropped after deductions.
On April 16, the state sponsored Shanghai Daily reported:
Factory authorities have promised workers they will make the welfare payments some time before the end of 2015, a female employee told AFP, declining to be named due to fear of arrest.

But workers were not satisfied with the offer, she added. "The factory could just leave in the middle of next year, and we might end up without welfare payments."

She added that police had beaten and detained a handful of protesters earlier this week, and armed police were still stationed outside the factory gate even though the mood had calmed.
On April 17, the state sponsored China Daily reported:
Nie Xin, of the city's publicity department, said the shoe manufacturer had agreed to increase social benefits starting in May, but the problem of paying for the benefits in arrears remains.

"Now the key problem lies in the strikers asking the shoe manufacturer to catch up on the social benefits it didn't pay workers during all the time they were employed by the company," Nie said.

"Paying back all welfare benefits over several decades for thousands of workers could bankrupt the company."

The incident sets off alarms for many other manufacturers in the economically booming Pearl River Delta region.
These screenshots show that on April 18, Sina Weibo began censoring searches for “Dongguan Yuyuan Shoe Factory Strike” (东莞裕元鞋厂罢工).
This screenshot, taken on April 19, shows that Tencent Weibo was censoring searches for that phrase also.
Chinese language reports of the incident have also begun disappearing from China’s web sites. For example:

“Over 1,000 Guangdong Shoe Factory Workers Strike to Defend Rights” (广东一家鞋厂上千员工罢工为社保维权) Originally available here:

“Over 1,000 Guangdong Shoe Factory Workers Organize Massive Strike, Official Get Involved” (广东一鞋厂上千员工举行大规模罢工 官方介入) Originally available here:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tiananmen Watch: Sina Weibo Relaxes Censorship of Discussion of Hu Yaobang, Baidu PostBar Doesn't

On April 16, 2014, the state-sponsored Global Times published an English language article entitled “Reform Follows Hu Yaobang’s Vision: Experts.” Some excerpts:
The direction of China's current reform is consistent with the notion of late Party chief Hu Yaobang, said political analysts on the 25th anniversary of the death of the reformist leader, which fell Tuesday.

Hu was elected as general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee in February 1980, and he resigned in 1987. He died on April 15, 1989 at the age of 74.
. . . .
There was no memorial held at central government-level this year. But officials in Liuyang, Hunan Province, Hu's hometown, visited the late leader's former residence last week in a bid to learn from Hu's "man of the people" work style, the Liuyang Daily reported.

In a low profile visit, Hu Jintao, former general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, went to the residence on Friday, reported the Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po paper. He reportedly stayed an hour at the residence and bowed to a bronze statue of the late leader.
The Liuyang Daily article the Global Times referred to is presumably the April 11, 2014, front page article entitled "Taking Yaobang as a Mirror to Seek Out the Problem of the 'Four Winds'" (以耀邦为明镜查找“四风”问题). Some excerpts:
Yesterday, municipal Party Secretary Cao Lijun, Deputy Secretary and Mayor Yu Xunwei escorted leader from the Party, municipal legislature, municipal government, and municipal Political Consultative Conference to the former residence of Comrade Hu Yaobang to launch a Party educational group study session entitled "Being Effective and Honest for the People," and received active instruction in mass line education.
The article, originally available here - - has been deleted.
Screenshots showing cached copied of Liuyang Daily article about officials
visit to Hu Yaobang's ancestral home (left), and what users see today (right)
 The Wen Wei Po article referred to by the Global Times was reposted by some PRC-based media outlets on April 14, 2014, including Sina, which published the article under the title “Hong Kong Media: Hu Jintao Visits Ancestral Home of Hu Yaobang and Bows to His Statue” (港媒:胡锦涛访胡耀邦故居向其铜像鞠躬). Some excerpts:
According to Hong Kong media, on the advent of the 25th anniversary of the death of Hu Yaobang, last Friday morning, former Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao went to Hu Yaobang's ancestral home in Zhonghe County, Liuyang, Hunan.  He stayed for about an hour, and during that time he bowed in tribute to a statue of Hu Yaobang.
The article, originally available here - - has been deleted.
Screenshots showing cached copied of Sina article about Hu Jintao's
visit to Hu Yaobang's ancestral home (left), and what users see today (right)
These screenshots show that, unlike 2013, this year Sina Weibo is not censoring searches for “Hu Yaobang.”

These screenshots show that Baidu, however, continues to ban users from establishing a PostBar (Tieba  贴吧) forum about Hu Yaobang.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

After Court Affirms Xu Zhiyong’s Conviction, New Citizens Movement Web Site Disappears From Baidu Search Results

On April 12, 2014, the state sponsored Global Times reported that “A Beijing court on Friday [April 11] rejected the appeal of Chinese activist Xu Zhiyong who was given a four-year sentence in prison for assembling a crowd to disrupt order in public places.”

These screenshots show that, on the morning of April 11, 2014, the top search result for "" was the website of the New Citizens Movement, of which Xu was one of the founders. Several hours later Baidu tells users performing  same search for that URL “That URL Was Not Found” (没有找到该URL).

Before it disappeared from Baidu’s search results, the snippet of the top search result read:
New Citizens Movement
The New Citizens Movement website is now online. And our colleagues in Beijing: Xu Zhiyong, Ding Jiaxi, Zhao Changqing . . .
新公民运动 New Citizens Movement
新公民运动网站上线了。 而在线下,在北京,我们的新公民同仁:许志永、丁家喜、赵常
This is not the first time that information relating to Xu Zhiyong has disappeared from Baidu and other China-based web sites:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jailing of (Yet Another) Corrupt Internet Police Officer Shows How Censors Interact with Webmasters

Previous Posts on This Topic:
On April 2, 2014, the state-sponsored China Daily published a report entitled "Hainan Internet Police Sentenced to 10 Year for Taking over 700k in 'Gratuities' for 'Paid Post Deletion'" (海南一网警"有偿删帖"收取"好处费"70余万 获刑十年). Some excerpts:
During Officer XXX Ning WEI's tenure as Deputy Director, his job responsibilities included online public sentiment oversight, intelligence gathering, information disposal, etc. If an Internet Policeman from outside of Hainan needed to delete a post on "Tianya" or "Kaidi," they needed to go through the Haikou Public Security Internet Police Detachment. The Haikou Public Security Internet Police Detachment would, in accordance with rules, use RTX (a chat platform server) to issue an order to the "Tianya" web site, and would use a specified QQ group to issues orders to "Kaidi" and other web sites. Generally web site would carry out post deletion orders as demanded by the Internet Police.
. . . .
Between August 2011 and August 2012, XXX Ning WEI used his position to help Officer XXX PENG, an officer with the Hubei Huangqu Public Security Internet Police Detachment, delete posts on the "Tianya" and "Kaidi" web sites. In order to express his gratituted, XXX PENG made over 148 inter-bank transfers from his account and the accounts of two others to XXX Ning WEI totaling 483,600 yuan as post deletion "gratuities."

. . . .

Thursday, April 10, 2014

State Media: Baidu Staff and Internet Police Profited by Deleting Negative Information

Previous Posts on This Topic:
On March 26, 2014, the state sponsored Beijing News published an English language article on its web site entitled “Baidu Staff, Web Censor Profited by Deleting Unfavorable Posts.” Some excerpts:
Screenshot taken on March 2, 2014, showing
Baidu censoring search results for
"Delete Negative Information." Credit: Feichangdao
Beijing police have detained at least 10 people, including employees at Baidu, the leading Chinese-language Internet search provider, over allegations of abusing their positions to delete online posts in return for money, the Beijing News reports.

Xu Ning, an administrator at Baidu Tieba, an online community bound tightly to Baidu's Internet search services, was found to have taken 67,400 yuan ($10,856) for deleting more than 300 posts in collaboration with Lv Longwei, who once worked at Baidu.
. . . .
A PR company has also profited from deleted posts. It was launched in 2010 by a former Baidu employee surnamed Gu.
The Beijing News published a Chinese language version of the article entitled “A Policeman Took Money to Help People Delete Online Posts” (一警察收钱帮人删网帖). Some excerpts:
Today this reporter learned that, since 2012, at least ten personnel had been placed under control in the above-captioned case.
. . . .
Baidu reported the case to authorities and exposed the scandalous story of paid post deletion, leading to the detention of many website administrators, PR company managers, and police officers.
. . . .
One those arrested was Xu Ning, a former senior product operations manager in Baidu's social search department, where he was responsible for PostBar moderator complaints and moderator examination and verification.
. . . .
A court subsequently found that, from May 29 through June 8, 2012, Xu Ning and Lv Weilong cooperated to illegally delete posts nine times, deleting over 300 posts, and accepted fees totaling 67,400 yuan. In June 2013, a Haidian court sentenced Xu Ning and Lv Weilong to 14 and 18 months imprisonment, respectively for the crime of accepting bribes as non-government employees.
. . . .
Three days after Baidu reported Xu Ning to the police, another former Baidu employee was detained: Mr. Gu, who was deputy general manager of a PR firm. It is understood that this company was established by Gu's older brother, and that his sister-in-law Mrs. Ai was responsible for its financial affairs.
. . . .
According to the arrest warrant submitted by the police, Gu's company is suspected of "searching online for negative news and posts about government agencies and enterprises, and directing company employees to contact those government agencies and enterprises, and compelling those government agencies and enterprises with negative information online to spend money to hire his company to help get the negative online information deleted, suppressed, or blocked, and obtaining advantage thereby." In addition, they are also suspected of bribing many web site managers to delete negative information.
. . . .
Gu's company has also stated that a Mr. Liu, who was an officer with the Internet Security Office of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, had also had inappropriate economic contacts with them. Liu was subsequently subjected to compulsory measures.
. . . .
The posts at issue have already been deleted, and it has not been possible for this reporter to trace links to their original text. However, one of the suspects has stated that the deleted content was primarily the rapid promotions of second generation bureaucrats, deaths arising from forced demolitions, government building construction going over-budget, as well as some negative news about some publicly listed state owned enterprises, such as environmental pollution, increases in reserves, and product quality. Gu also said that his clients included a famous air conditioner company and a famous property developer.
. . . .
According to Gu's statement, after these governments and enterprises signed contracts with the company, they would typically use three means to remove negative influences. The first was directly deleting posts, with enterprises directly pleading with the portal web sites and the government going through Officer Liu to send a notice to various web sites.

The second means was Internet optimization, known in the profession as "astroturfing," pushing negative information lower in search engine result rankings. To achieve this they had specialized software, and it was not necessary to spend any additional money on any specific case.

The third means was to go through Baidu to block key words, and for this they had to obtain help from Mr. Lu, who worked in Baidu's public relations department.

. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .
. . . .

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sina Weibo Censors Title of Science Fiction Video

This screenshot shows that on March 24, 2014, Sina Weibo was censoring searches for “Hong Kong Will Be Destroyed After 33 Years” (香港将于33年后毁灭).

“Hong Kong Will Be Destroyed After 33 Years” is the title of a short science fiction video, which can be viewed here -

This screenshot was taken on April 5, 2014, and shows that a search on Baidu Video for the title of the film returned no results.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

State Media Says Reports of Tanks Bound for Maoming False, Baidu Censors "Maoming Tanks"

In its April 2, 2014 edition, the Maoming Evening News published an article entitled “There Are Many Online Rumors, Citizens Viciously Attack Rumormongers” (网上谣言不少,市民痛斥造谣者). According to the article:
In the last few days there have been many Internet users who have reposted a picture showing several tanks on the road to their Weixin, QQ, and Weixin and QQ groups. . . . But it has been confirmed that this picture was actually of a military exercise from several years ago.
前天,不少网民在自己的微信、QQ 以及微信圈、QQ 群等疯转一张照片,照片上显示的是几辆坦克车行驶在公路上(见图①)。. . . . 然而,经证实,这张图片只不过是前几年部队训练在公路上行进的照片。
These screenshots were taken a few hours after the Maoming Evening News posted its story, and show that Baidu was censoring searches for “Maoming Tanks,” (茂名 坦克) but not for “Maoming” or “Tanks.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Baidu And Tencent Begin Censoring Searches for "Maoming PX"

Image showing protests on Caixin
(subsequently deleted)
Shortly after midnight on April 2, 2014, the state sponsored Global Times published an article entitled “Maoming PX Protests Spread to Guangzhou.” Some excerpts:
Protests against paraxylene (PX) project in Maoming, Guangdong Province continued into a third day Tuesday despite local government pledges to conduct a public consultation before giving the project a green light. 
. . . .
Around 1,000 protesters took to the streets in Maoming around 5 pm on Tuesday although the crowd dispersed peacefully shortly after. Some protesters lingered in the area, several witnesses told the Global Times. There was no repeat of the scuffles that marred earlier protests when some threw eggs and water bottles at police.
These screenshots show that, some time that same evening, Baidu and Tencent Weibo began censoring searches for “Maoming PX” (茂名 PX).

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

More on Baidu's Victory Over the Those Who Would Deny It Its Right to Free Speech

Previous post on this topic: US Court Rules Baidu Enjoys Freedom of Speech, Baidu Bans Forums on “Freedom of Speech”

On March 27, 2014, Judge Jesse Furman of the US District Court in New York issued an opinion granting Baidu’s motion to dismiss the complaint against it by eight “New York residents who advocate for increased democracy in China.” The full opinion is available here -

The plaintiffs complained that Baidu:
censor[s] and block[s] from search engine results any article, publication, video, audio and any information in whatever format if its content deals with the Democracy movement in China or any of the following topics that are related to the Chinese Democracy Movement: The June 4th Movement, The Jasmine Revolution, The Jasmine Movement; The China Democracy Party National Committee and the Tiananmen Square Incident or movement.
Screenshots showing Baidu censoring search results for "China Jasmine Revolution"
and "Tiananmen Square Massacre" taken on March 31, 2014. Credit: Feichangdao.
The plaintiffs claimed that Baidu engaged in that censorship at the behest of the People’s Republic of China.
The judge stated in a footnote:
That Plaintiffs allege that Baidu exercises editorial judgment “in cooperation with and according to the policies and regulations of” China makes no difference to the analysis. Plaintiffs allege that Baidu “purposely designs its systems and search engines to exclude” specific content. Whether it does so at the behest, or in furtherance of the interests, of China does not bear on the nature or extent of Baidu’s First Amendment rights.
Andy Atkins-Krüger interviewing Baidu spokesperson Kaiser Kuo
Credit: Searchengineland, August 30, 2011.
The judge went on to say:
In short, Plaintiffs’ efforts to hold Baidu accountable in a court of law for its editorial  judgments about what political ideas to promote cannot be squared with the First Amendment. There is no irony in holding that Baidu’s alleged decision to disfavor speech concerning democracy is itself protected by the democratic ideal of free speech. As the Supreme Court has explained, “[t]he First Amendment does not guarantee that . . . concepts virtually sacred to our  Nation as a whole . . . will go unquestioned in the marketplace of ideas.” For that reason, the First Amendment protects Baidu’s right to advocate for systems of government other than democracy (in China or elsewhere) just as surely as it  protects Plaintiffs’ rights to advocate for democracy. Indeed, “[i]f there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Thus, the Court’s decision — that Baidu’s choice not to feature “pro-democracy political speech” is protected by the First Amendment — is itself “a reaffirmation of the principles of freedom and inclusiveness that [democracy] best reflects, and of the conviction that our toleration of criticism . . . is a sign and source of our strength.”