Friday, May 20, 2016

Sogou and Microsoft's Bing Cooperate on English Language Search

On May 20, 2016, the state sponsored China Daily published an article entitled “Sogou, Bing Unite for ‘Bigger World' Searches.” Some excerpts:
Sogou Inc joined forces with a Western search engine giant in a new English-language search service, looking to take advantage of Baidu Inc's recent crisis to gain more market share.

Sogou, which operates China's third-largest online search engine, said on Thursday that to satisfy Chinese curiosity for global information, it has teamed up with Microsoft's Bing to launch an English-language search engine.

Wang Xiaochuan, CEO of Beijing-based Sogou, said the desire to closely link with the whole world prompted his company to launch the service. "We invite you, together with us, to embrace a bigger world.”
All of the following screenshots were taken on May 20, 2016.

Sogou’s English search engine found over 38,000 results for “Cai Yingwen,” but no results for “Xi Jinping.”
Baidu was able to find results for "Xi Jinping" in English.

Sogou’s English search engine found over 3,000 results for “Great Leap Forward,” but no results for “Cultural Revolution.”

Baidu was able to find results for "Cultural Revolution" in English.

Sogou’s English search engine found over 8 Million results for “Forbidden City,” but no results for “Tiananmen.”

Baidu was able to find results for "Tiananmen" in English.

Sogou’s English search engine found over 4 million results for “Dalai Lama,” but no results for “Li Hongzhi.”

Baidu was able to find results for "Li Hongzhi" in English. 
Sogou’s English search engine found almost 2 million results for “Independent Tibet,” but no results for “Tibetan Independence.”

Baidu was able to find results for "Tibetan Independence" in English.

Sogou’s English search engine found almost 2 million results for “Obscenity,” but no results for “Pornography.”

Baidu was able to find results for "Pornography" in English.

Sogou’s English search engine found over 13 million results for “Vagina,” but no results for “Penis.”

Baidu was able to find results for "Penis" in English.

On Day of Tsai Ing-wen's Inauguration, Sina Weibo Censors "Cai Yingwen" and "Taiwan"

See also: During Taiwan Elections Sina Weibo Begins Censoring "Taiwan" 

On May 20, 2016, the state sponsored Global Times published an editorial entitled “Cross-Straits Ties Enter Era of Uncertainty Under Tsai.” Some excerpts:
Today is the day Taiwan's new "president" Tsai Ing-wen and "vice president" Chen Chien-jen are to deliver their inauguration speeches and assume office. A new era for a cross-Straits region that is characterized by uncertainty officially kicks off.
. . . .
The mainland's endeavors during Chen's "presidency" showed that "jurisprudential independence" will never work out on the island. However, certain people are still holding on to the fantasy that "soft independence" might be workable. Perhaps a new round of contention is inevitable to completely drive the topic of Taiwan independence away while making the one-China principle the one and only starting point to maintain the status quo.

The DPP resuming office and refusing to acknowledge the 1992 Consensus are becoming key factors that may reverse cross-Strait ties. If the mainland indulges it, the result could be that all our previous efforts will be lost.
These screenshots were taken on the morning of May 20, 2016, and show that searches for “Tsai Ing-wen” (蔡英文) and “Taiwan” (台湾) on Sina Weibo returned no results.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

On the 50th Anniversary of the Cultural Revolution Baidu Bans Forums on the Cultural Revolution

On May 17, 2016, the state sponsored Global Times published an editorial entitled “Society Firmly Rejects Cultural Revolution” (“文革”已被彻底否定) by “Shan Renping” - a pseudonym used by Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times. Some excerpts:
Discussions over China's Cultural Revolution have been emerging on the Internet. The decade-long internal chaos was a huge disaster. It is thus normal to hear people talking about it on the 50th anniversary of this movement. On the other hand, however, such discussions cannot be treated as a cleavage in people's ideological understanding.
. . . .
We have bid farewell to the Cultural Revolution. We can say it once again today that the Cultural Revolution cannot and will not come back. There is no place for it in today's China.
That same day, the People’s Daily ran an editorial in its print edition entitled “Appraising History is Done for a Better Future” (以史为鉴是为了更好前进). Also by an author who coincidentally had the name “Ren Ping” (任 平 - albeit with a different Character for “Ren” than the author of the Global Times’ editorial). Some excerpts:
We must unify our ideology and our actions with the policies set forth by the Party, as well as with the spirit of important statements of Secretary General Xi Jinping . . . . 
我们要把思想和行动统一到党中央的决策部署上来,统一到习近平总书记系列重要讲话精神上来 . . . .
These screenshots were taken on May 15, 2016, and show that Baidu was censoring image search results for “Cultural Revolution,” and had banned users from establishing a PostBar (Tieba 贴吧) forum on the subject of the Cultural Revolution.

These screenshots were also taken on May 15, and show web search results for “Cultural Revolution” on Baidu and Bing.

The top results on Baidu were from the following websites:
  • (4 results)
  • (government licensed website, article was from 2015)
  • (government licensed bulletin board, post was from 2010)
  • (state sponsored media outlet)
  • (government licensed website)
  • (China’s central government website)
  • (government licensed website, article was from 2015)
The top results on were from the following websites:
  • (4 results - one each for simplified Chinese, Japanese, and the Macau and Jiangnan Chinese dialects)
  • (foreign news outlet)
  • (China’s official news agency)
  • (foreign video website)
  • (China’s central government website)
Baidu did not show a censorship notice.

These screenshots show that Baidu was able to find the “Cultural Revolution” Wikipedia articles in Japanese and the Macau and Jiangnan Chinese dialects, but not in simplified Chinese.

These screenshots show that Baidu could not find any results from or

Monday, May 16, 2016

An Overview of China's First "Right to be Forgotten" Lawsuit

On May 4, 2016, the Haidian District People's Court in Beijing published an article on its website entitled "Haidian Court Completes Investigation in Nation's First Case of 'Right to be Forgotten'" (海淀法院审结全国首例“被遗忘权”案) Some excerpts:
Recently the Haidian Court concluded a case involving a lawsuit filed by Plaintiff Ren against a certain Internet Services Company for infringement of the right of reputation, name, and general personality.  On May 13, 2014, a European court issued a final judgment confirming that ordinary citizens have a "right to be forgotten" with respect to personal information, and following that the European Union has established the scope of a "right to be forgotten." During the two year period following the European court's recognition of the "right to be forgotten," the Haidian Court has concluded proceedings in the first case involving the scope of judicial protection of the "right to be forgotten" for a citizen's personal information. This case study has significant theoretical and practical value with respect to the issue of how China will conduct regulatory development and judicial practice to safeguard the "right to be forgotten" for personal information in the Internet age.

Mr. Ren's work related to various fields in the area of administration education, such as human resources management and business administration. Beginning on July 1, 2014 he performed educational work in those areas for a company in Wuxi. On November 26, 2014, that technology company issued a "Notice of Automatic Termination" to Mr. Ren, terminating the parties' labor relationship. A certain Internet service company was a commercial provider of search link services such as web page search and related search.

It is unclear why the announcement refused to use the full names of the parties involved, particularly given that at the time the full text of both the decisions of the lower court and the court of appeals were available online without any of the parties' names being redacted. See:
Screenshot of the Ren Jiayu Court of Appeals Decision on
 According to the text of the court judgments, the parties implicated were:
  • Ren Jiayu (任甲玉), a designer and engineer born in 1972.
  • Beijing Baidu Network Data Technology Company Limited (北京百度网讯科技有限公司)
  • Taoshi Education (陶氏教育)
  • Beijing Daoyaxuan Commercial Trading Company Limited (北京道雅轩商贸有限公司)
The following summary is based on the text of the court of first instance judgment, which was subsequently confirmed by the appellate court.

Ren Jiayu sued Baidu because:
Beijing Daoyaxuan Commercial Trading Company Limited (Party A) and Ren Jiayu (Party B) negotiated a mutually agreed voluntary formal termination of their labor agreement relationship to take place on March 12, 2015, with the termination grounds being, after Party A hired Party B on a trial basis, it was discovered that "Wuxi Taoshi Education Ren Jiayu" was appearing online on Baidu, and that many people believed that Taoshi Education was a dishonest company, with some going so far as to claim it was an evil cult. Because Party A required that the work performed by Party B be beyond reproach, both parties voluntarily terminated the contract. 
Ren Jiayu not only wanted Baidu to compensate him for the income he lost as a result of the termination of the labor contract, he also wanted the court to grant him injunctive relief against Baidu, specifically:
When entering "Ren Jiayu" into the Baidu search interface and conducting a search, the following six keywords shall not appear in the search results:
  • Taoshi Ren Jiayu
  • Taoshi Super Study Method
  • Super Fast Study Method
  • Super Study Method
  • Taoshi Education Ren Jiayu
  • Wuxi Taoshi Education Ren Jiayu
As the court put it, Ren Jiayu had two specific requests:
First, directly or indirectly confirm that a company he had previously collaborated with, "Taoshi Education," did not have a good professional reputation, and second, attempt to conceal, at least on the Internet, his work history from potential students and education cooperation clients.
This is probably a good point to pause and understand exactly what Ren Jiayu was objecting to. Ren did not claim that the "keywords" in question were appearing in Baidu's "organic" search results. That is, the listing of titles and snippets that generally take up the bulk of the space on a search result page.

Ren was objecting to what Baidu refers to as "Related Searches" (相关搜索). In the screenshot below the "related searches" for "Xi Jinping" are outlined in red.

 The court characterized Baidu's "Related Search" functionality this way:
Baidu's so-called Related Search Terms are automatically generated by the search engine based on entry statistics for terms with a relatively high usage frequency over a given period of time and the searched words that were related to them.
Ren believed he was entitled to relief in connection with the "Related Search" results displayed by Baidu because, according to him:
[He] never held a job at the Taoshi Education Company, and had never posted any information online about "Taoshi Education Ren Jiayu," "Wuxi Taoshi Education Ren Jiayu," etc., and because Taoshi Education is the subject of controversy, infringing information such as  "Taoshi Education Ren Jiayu" and "Wuxi Taoshi Education Ren Jiayu" has caused extreme harm to [his] reputation.
The court stated that the central question in this dispute was:
Does Baidu's current technical model for "Related Searches" and the related service model constitute an infringement of the rights being advocated by Ren Jiayu in his lawsuit.
The opening sentence of the court judgment states that Ren had brought suit against Baidu for:
[I]nfringement of the right to reputation, right to name, and the general right to personality.侵犯名誉权、姓名权、一般人格权。
In addressing Ren's claim, the court considered one question of fact and one question of law:
  • Question of Fact: Were the terms displayed by Baidu's "Related Search" service that referred to Ren Jiayu subject to any human interference?
  • Question of Law: Did the technology model of Baidu's "Related Search" and the search service provided by the related service model constitute an infringement of Ren Jiayu's right to name, right to reputation, and the so-called "right to be forgotten" within the ordinary right to personality advocated by Ren Jiayu.
  • 百度公司“相关搜索”服务显示的涉及任甲玉的检索词是否受到了该公司人为干预?
  • 百度公司“相关搜索”技术模式及相应服务模式提供的搜索服务是否构成对任甲玉的姓名权、名誉权及任甲玉主张的一般人格权中的所谓“被遗忘权”的侵犯?
The court did not explain the relevance of the question fact, and simply found that there was no evidence of any human interference, and that it was therefore not possible that Baidu had any "specific intent" with respect to Ren Jiayu.

Moving on to the question of law, the court found that the six terms that Ren Jiayu had complained were infringing "did not either on their face or in fact have any judgmental implications, and in and of themselves were merely reference terms indicating their usage in online information retrieval." (本身并无表面及实质性的褒贬含义,本质仍属供网络信息检索使用之参考词汇). Furthermore, Ren apparently did in fact have a prior relationship with Taoshi Education, as the court found:
Based on Ren Jiayu's statements in court, he did in fact engage in actual commercial collaboration with Taoshi Education which was publicized in the media, and that commercial collaboration and publication information was being reflected on the Internet. 
Given that it had already been established that Ren Jiayu did in fact have a prior relationship with Taoshi Education, the appearance of those terms was "an objective reflection of the history of Ren Jiayu's educational work with enterprises associated with Taoshi." (任甲玉从事与陶氏相关企业教育工作的历史情况的客观反映。)

The court therefore rejected Ren Jiayu's claim of infringement of his right to reputation:
Seeing as there exists neither a situation where words are being used to insult, nor a situation where facts are being fabricated to defame, it is clear that there exists no infringing act of insult or defamation with respect to Ren Jiayu. Therefore the aforementioned circumstances of Baidu's Related Search clearly does not constitute an infringement of Ren Jiayu's right to reputation. 
The court similarly rejected Ren Jiayu's claim of infringement of his right to name, which the court described as the right to "prohibit third parties from interfering with, misappropriating, or passing off as" one's own name. The court held:
Given that there has been no action by Baidu implicating human intervention in the "Related Search" terms regarding "Ren Jiayu," and nothing was specifically directed at a specific individual, then as regards something mechanical like "Related Search," the process whereby the relevant algorithm gathers and process the three characters "Ren Jiayu" is merely combining a string of characters, and does not constitute a meaningful name.  
Having established that Ren Jiayu had no claims for the protection of any commonly recognized rights of personhood, the court turned its attention to whether or not a new "right to be forgotten" should be recognized as existing within the broader framework of the ”general right of personhood" (一般人格权). The court first clarified that foreign law would not form the basis of its decision:
China's law as it exists today is unable to define a category of rights that is the so-called "right to be forgotten." The "right to be forgotten" is only touched upon in foreign statutory and case law, which cannot serve as the legal basis for China's protection of this kind of right. 
The court defined three criteria for determining whether such a right could be found  within China's own Tort Law:
The right to personhood or general right to personhood protects the subject's personal interests, and encompasses both those personal interests that have already been categorized as legally defined rights, as well as those legitimate legal interests that have not been so categorized but which should receive the protection of law. With respect to the latter, the following three criteria must be met simultaneously: they must not encompass those rights which have already been categorized, and they must be rights which are both legitimate and which require protection.
The first criteria was met because, as noted earlier, the court had found that the right that Ren Jiayu was asking the court to protect in this case was not covered by existing rights such as the right to reputation or the right to name.

As for the second and third criteria, the court found that Ren Jiayu arguably did have an "interest" in this case, because there was potentially a direct connection between Ren Jiayu and the information that he wanted "forgotten," to the extent that it could have an adverse impact on his professional reputation, which in turn could jeopardize his ability to recruit students and enjoy other employment opportunities and economic interests.

The court held, however, that Ren Jiayu's "interest" in having information "forgotten" was not "legitimate and requiring the protection of the law."
It is inappropriate to make an abstract assessment of whether a company's reputation is good or bad, or the cause-and-effect relationship a company's reputation may create. Furthermore there is also the latent competitive relationship between Ren Jiayu and Taoshi Education's affiliated enterprises given their operate in identical or closely-related professions. As regards the latter, the information at issue in this lawsuit regarding Ren Jiayu's work history relates to very recent events, and he continues to work in the business administration education profession. This information happens to form a portion of his professional history, and his current individual professional credibility is both of directly relevant and of ongoing concern. Ren Jiayu hopes to make use of his own good reputation in the industry to attract customers and students going forward, but information about his personal qualification is important information that customers and students rely on in making a judgment. Ren Jiayu's collaboration with Taoshi Education affiliated enterprises did not occur at a time when he was a minor or a person with limited or non-existent competence, and there existed no other legal basis for providing special protections to him as a member of a special group. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Party Puts Ren Zhiqiang on One Year Probation for Online Posts

On March 1, 2016 the state sponsored China Daily published an article entitled “Beijing CPC Committee Vows Punishment for Ren Zhiqiang.” Some excerpts:
A Beijing district committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) pledged severe intraparty penalties for Ren Zhiqiang, a celebrity blogger and property developer whose accounts were closed for allegedly spreading illegal information.

The Xicheng district committee of the CPC on Monday issued a circular saying Ren, "as a CPC member, has been releasing illegal information and making inappropriate comments online, resulting in a vile influence and damage to the party image."

The committee, where Ren's CPC membership is registered and managed, said it would punish him strictly according to party rules.
On March 4, 2016, the official website of the Beijing Xicheng District government published a notice entitled "The Fourth Party Branch of Beijing Xicheng's Department of Security Oversight Launches Study Project on Party Political Discipline and Political Norm Compliance" (西城区安全监管局第四党支部开展遵守党的政治纪律和政治规矩专题学习). Here is a full translation:
Recently, the Fourth Party Branch of Beijing Xicheng's Department of Security Oversight launched study project on Party political discipline and political norm compliance. They communicated the major themes of the "Beijing Xicheng Party Central Committee Notice Regarding Correctly Recognizing Ren Zhiqiang's Severe Discipline Issues, and in addition organized study sessions of the "Central Party's Eight Rules," "Chinese Communist Party Standards for Honesty and Self-discipline," and "Regulations on Chinese Communist Party Disciplinary Sanctions." Through these study sessions, vast numbers of cadres were abel to correctly recognize the problems associated with Ren Zhiqiang's severe violations of Party political discipline, draw lessons from the instruction, and learn a great deal. Their consciousness of discipline compliance and norm compliance was strengthened, particularly as it relates to insisting upon prioritizing the Party political discipline and political norms, remaining steadfastly idealistic, and maintaining a firm political stance, building a firm political conciseness, and an awareness of the overall situation, the bottom lines, the model behaviors, and the red wall [N.B. - a reference to Zhongnanhai], as well as the need to maintain a high degree of consistency with the central Party in their thoughts, politics, and deeds.

In early May 2016, the same website published an undated notice entitled "Beijing Xicheng District Central Committee Issues Notice on the Status of Cases Involving Four Incidents of Party Cadre's Discipline Violation" (西城区委通报4起党员干部违纪案件处理情况). An excerpt:
Comrade Ren Zhiqiang, former chairman and deputy Party secretary of the Huayuan Group did, on several occasions, publicly post erroneous statements in micro-blogs, blogs, and other online platforms and public venues that went against the four basic principles and the Party line. His actions severely violated Party political discipline, and it is hereby decided that Ren Zhiqiang shall be placed on Party probation for one year.

Additional Background: Cyberspace Administration of China Orders Websites to Shut Ren Zhiqiang's Accounts

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Former Party Official Censured for Sina Weibo Statements, Online Essay That "Severely Damaged the Party's Image"

On April 22, 2016, the state sponsored media outlet "The Paper" published an article entitled "Wenling Communist Party Official Censured by Party for Publishing and Reposting Erroneous Statements" (浙江温岭一党员公开发布、转载错误言论,被党内严重警告处分).  According to that report, Mu Yifei, a former official a Party School in Wenling, Zhejiang, had been censured by the Communist Party for violating Article 133(2) of the 2016 "Regulations on Chinese Communist Party Disciplinary Measures" and Article 46 of the 2003 "Regulations on Chinese Communist Party Disciplinary Measures" by publishing and reposting statements that were inconsistent with the Party orthodxy, thereby "severely damaging the Party's image."

On April 28, 2016, the China Youth Online website (sponsored by the Chinese Communist Party Youth League) published an article entitled "A 'Retired But Not Resigned' Official Gets Punished, Why Are Internet Users Protesting an Injustice?" (“休而不退”的公务员被处分,网民因何为其鸣不平?).

That article included images of Sina Weibo posts which it claimed showed Internet users criticizing Mu Yifei. In the example below from 2013,  Mu had reposted a comment by another user regarding a book on reform by Hu Deping - the son of Hu Yaobang and former vice chairman of All-China General Chamber of Industry & Commerce. The Weibo user said:
Is there anything in there about multi-party systems, constitutional governance, freedom of association, independent judiciaries, press freedom, or private publishing? I fear there is not a single sentence, nothing about opposition parties, as there’s only one party, and just the illusion of reform.
To which another Weibo user responds:
What is goal of multi-party systems, constitutional governance, freedom of association, independent judiciaries, press freedom, or private publishing? You are an instructor at a Party school, what do you think you're doing reposting this?
According to images of the Party Decision posted online:
On April 6, 2016, Mu Yifei published an article entitled "The Profound Regrets of Someone 'Retired But Not Resigned'" in the Information Times, a portion of which included erroneous content. It was reposted by many websites, and created a wave of discussion, causing a severely harmful influence.

Below is a full translation of that article, which has since been deleted from the Information Times website.
I've been thinking about writing this article for quite some time. Today I saw a news report from Hunan that made me take up pen. According to the report in the "Outlook" weekly recently in certain places in Hunan there have been some younger "officers" and "hands" whose main job is to provide reports to superiors calling for "public officials over 50 to step aside and enjoy better compensation than they do at their post" and voluntarily apply for "early retirement" and become "ex-officials" who are "retired but not resigned."

I happen to be one of these "ex-officials." I'm from Zhejiang, and in 2008 I took up the life of a "ex-official." Today I'm official retired. Even if I wanted to rectify my mistakes, I no longer have the opportunity, and I therefore can only write this guilt-stricken essay.

First, I feel shame for every penny of my not-insignificant salary. For a period of 8-9 years I did nothing. I collected my salary as usual, and enjoyed substantial benefits. And my salary was no small thing, along the lines of what an individual taxpayer earning over 120,000 yuan would get. Even though it wasn't like I didn't want to do anything, but my hands were tied by policies. But after all is said and done I was dining out on someone else's dime, and the salary I was getting was somewhat impractical.

Second, I feel shame for all the hardships endured by the workers. They work from dawn to dusk, doing the hard labor, and the money they struggle to earn - why should that be going to feed those like us who have jobs but do no work? Are they perfectly content to go on feeding and clothing us like this? Has anyone bothered to seek out their views on this? If we feel no shame before them, then that itself is something to be ashamed of.

Third, I feel shame of those labored 9-5 under me. Those who qualify for "early retirement" are inevitably those who fulfilled unimportant posts. To put it another way, if after you've retired the post can be left, only then do you qualify for "early retirement." Those subordinates of a similar age to me who do not qualify for "early retirement" have no option but to keep clocking in. When things get tense they they have no choice but pop a pill and work overtime. It is hard not to feel somewhat ashamed as I sit back and watch their busy lives.

Everyone knows that workers are best when they are in their 50s, when their experience is high, their energy is strong, and their worries are few. Furthermore, someone who gets by at an unimportant lower level post will usually have some skills. There can be no doubt that it is a waste to allow such people to get a substantial salary while sitting at unemployed. I see my colleagues everywhere raising birds and walking dogs, others sit around every day watching TV, other are fond of playing online games. Those who don't create problems for others and aren't corrupt are already considered outstanding. So who cares if they feel like a candle that's been snuffed out before its burned halfway down?

How many such unemployed people are there around the country? How many financial resources are being used to keep them feed and clothed? An accounting is due. If this is being done to foster new cadres, vacating space for them to occupy, then I have to ask, what's the point of fostering so many new cadres if your not utilizing the cadres you've already fostered? So many highly experienced public officials in the prime of their lives are being set aside, so what is the point of bringing in so many new officials every year? If the only purpose is to solve the employment issue, then is the cost-to-benefit ration for this approach too low? Relevant laws and regulations restrict early retire to those with at least 30 years of work experience, but some localities have taken it on themselves to lower it from 30 to 20. Should that not be suspected of violating the law?

I have been tardy in writing this essay before, mainly because I feared people would say I was reluctant to leave my post, even one so unimportant. Now I am fully retired, so I have no fear of what others may say behind my back. I feel that I must get this long-buried shame off my chest, and in the unlikely event that it offends someone, there is nothing I can do about that.








These screenshots show that article originally appeared on page A26 of the April 6 edition, but that entire page was subsequently removed from the Information Times' website.