Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2014 Year In Review: China's Internet in Five Easy Screenshots

Date: December 28, 2014
Background: According to Google's transparency report, its products were being disrupted in five countries: China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Turkey.

Date: December 28, 2014
Background: According to Google's transparency report, access to Gmail was completely blocked beginning on December 26, 2014.

Date: December 29, 2014
Background: According to ProPublica: "Every day since Nov. 17, 2014, ProPublica has been testing whether the homepages of international news organizations are accessible to browsers inside China."

Source: United Airlines in-flight Wifi registration page.
Date: December 3, 2014
Background: According to United Airlines, passengers are able to access in-flight Wifi services for the entire globe except for Antarctica, the Andes mountains, the northeast portions of Siberia, and the People's Republic of China.

Date: November 10, 2014
Background: In “Tracing the Path of a Censored Weibo Post and Compiling Keywords that Trigger Automatic Review” by Jason Q. Ng, the author created the following visualization to explain what happens when a Sina Weibo user tries to post something on the service.

  • 1) User submits a message with keywords on the explicit filtering blacklist. They receive a message “Sorry, this content violates … regulated regulations and policies. Operation cannot be specified.” (“抱歉,此内容违反了《微博社区管理规定(试行)》或相关法规政策,无法进行指定操作。查看帮助:。”) The user must remove the blacklisted keyword before being able to post. The submission is censored.
  • 2A) If the post contains certain keywords, it may be automatically and instantaneously held for review by becoming invisible to all outside users. From the moment it is posted until it is reviewed by a censor, the post is invisible. From our two tests, it appears to take roughly 30 minutes before judgment is rendered on a post, but the amount of time no doubt varies depending on day of week and time of day.
  • 3) User submits a message with keywords on the implicit filtering blacklist. They receive a message “Posted successfully. Please be patient about 1-2 minutes delay due to server synchronization, thank you.” (“你的微博发布成功。目前服务器数据同步可能会有延时,所以麻烦耐心等待1-2分钟哦,非常感谢。”)
  • 3A/B) As noted by Zhu, this can sometimes take hours, but in other cases, can take about 30 minutes before the post—if approved (or not disapproved) by the censors—actually appears on a user’s timeline.
  • 4A/B) Quite rarely in our preliminary tests is a user actually informed that they have submitted unacceptable content and that it has been deleted (see Screenshot below). One of our accounts which did receive six of these notices received a warning notice and a 48 hour ban on posting (“您好,您被其他用户举报涉嫌违规。根据《微博社区管理规定(试行)》,您的账号将被禁言48小时。查看帮助:”), but no others did. Much more common is for posts to be rendered invisible (just as they were in 2A1) with no notice given to the user at all.
  • 4C) Simply deleting a user’s account was quite common in our preliminary tests. It sometimes occurred hours after the account finished posting any messages, and sometimes occurred within seconds. Sometimes, the user was offered the opportunity to recover their account by submitting an appeal. However, due to the types of account used for the study and style of submitting content, we likely experienced much higher than typical rates of account deletion (as opposed to King who crafted genuine looking posts, thus likely evading banning due to certain filters looking for span and other non-standard user behavior).