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 - http://blog.feichangdao.com/2012/08/gu-kailai-found-guilty-of-murdering.html. 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 - http://blog.feichangdao.com/2012/09/wang-lijun-found-guilty-chronicle-of.html. 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.



Sunday, December 30, 2012

Translation: Decision Regarding Strengthening Network Information Protection


National People's Congress Standing Committee Decision Regarding Strengthening Network Information Protection

(Passed at the 30th Meeting of the 11th Plenum of the National People's Congress Standing Committee on December 28, 2012)

In order to protect Internet information security, ensure the legal rights and interests of citizens, legal persons, and other groups, and safeguard national security and the public interest, it is hereby decided as follows:

1. The State protects electronic information that can distinguish a citizens' personal identity and that relates to citizens' personal privacy.

An organization and individual may neither steal or obtain through illegal means citizens' personal electronic information, nor sell or illegally provide to a third party citizens' personal electronic information.

2. Network service providers and other enterprises that collect or utilize citizens' personal electronic information in the course of business activities shall abide by the principles of legality, legitimacy, and necessity, clearly explain the purpose, manner, and scope of collection, and shall not, without the approval of the individual whose information is being collected, collect or use information in a manner that violates the provisions of laws and regulations, and the agreements of both parties.

Network information providers and other enterprises that collect or utilize citizens' personal electronic information shall publicize their rules for collection and utilization.

3. Network service providers and other enterprises and their employees must strictly preserve the confidentiality of citizens' personal electronic information collected during the course of business activities, and may not disclose, falsify, or damage it, and may not sell or illegally provide it to third parties.

4. Network service providers and other enterprises shall adopt technical and other necessary measures, ensure information security, and prevent the disclosure, damage, or loss of citizens' personal electronic information collected during the course of business activities. Remedial measures shall be immediately taken when information has or may have been disclosed, damaged, or lost.

5. Network service providers shall strengthen their management of information issued by their users, and upon discovering the issuance or transmission of information prohibited by law or regulation it shall immediately cease transmission of said information, and adopt measures to dispose of it, such as removing it, retain relevant records, and report it to the relevant agency.

6. When entering into agreements or confirming the provision of services with users, network service providers who provide users network connection services, conduct network access procedures for fixed and mobile telephones, or who provide users with information issuing services shall require users to provide truthful identity information.

7. No organization or individual may send commercial electronic information to a fixed line or mobile telephone or an individual's email address if it has not obtained  the approval of, or a request from, the electronic information recipient, or if the electronic information recipient has clearly expressed its refusal.

8. Citizens who discover network information that discloses an individual's identity, disseminates an individual's private affairs, or otherwise infringes upon their legal rights and interests, or who is harassed by receiving commercial electronic information, has the right to require the network service provider to delete the relevant information or adopt other necessary measures to stop it.

9. Every organization and individual has the right to file a complaint or accusation to the relevant responsible agency regarding any criminal activity relating to the provision of citizens' personal electronic information to a third party through theft or its acquisition or sale through illegal means or other network information illegal criminal activity. Upon receipt of a complaint or accusation, the agency shall handle it promptly in accordance with law. A person whose rights have been infringed may file a lawsuit in accordance with the law.

10. Relevant responsible agencies shall perform their responsibilities within the scope of their statutory authority in accordance with the law, and shall adopt technical and  other necessary measure to prevent, stop, investigate and prosecute the illegal provision of citizens' personal electronic information to a third party through theft or its acquisition or sale through illegal means or other network information illegal criminal activity. Network service providers shall provide cooperation and technical support to relevant responsible agencies in the course of their performing their responsibilities in accordance with the law.

State agencies and their staff shall maintain the confidentiality of citizens' personal electronic information that they learn during the course of fulfilling their duties, and shall not disclose, falsify, or damage it, and shall not sell or illegally provide it to third parties.

11. Activities that violate this Decision shall result in sanctions including warnings, fines, confiscation of illegal gains, revocation of license or cancellation of registration, closure of website, banning of relevant responsible employees from operating network service businesses, and shall be logged in social credit registries and publicized. Activities that constitute violations of public security administration shall be subject to public security administration sanctions in accordance with the law. Where a crime has been committed, criminal responsibility shall be pursued in accordance with the law. Those who infringe upon citizens' civil rights and interests shall bear civil responsibility in accordance with the law.

12. This Decision shall become effective on the day it is publicized.

全国人民代表大会常务委员会关于加强网络信息保护的决定

(2012年12月28日第十一届全国人民代表大会常务委员会第三十次会议通过)

为了保护网络信息安全,保障公民、法人和其他组织的合法权益,维护国家安全和社会公共利益,特作如下决定:

一、国家保护能够识别公民个人身份和涉及公民个人隐私的电子信息。

任何组织和个人不得窃取或者以其他非法方式获取公民个人电子信息,不得出售或者非法向他人提供公民个人电子信息。

二、网络服务提供者和其他企业事业单位在业务活动中收集、使用公民个人电子信息,应当遵循合法、正当、必要的原则,明示收集、使用信息的目的、方式和范围,并经被收集者同意,不得违反法律、法规的规定和双方的约定收集、使用信息。

网络服务提供者和其他企业事业单位收集、使用公民个人电子信息,应当公开其收集、使用规则。

三、网络服务提供者和其他企业事业单位及其工作人员对在业务活动中收集的公民个人电子信息必须严格保密,不得泄露、篡改、毁损,不得出售或者非法向他人提供。

四、网络服务提供者和其他企业事业单位应当采取技术措施和其他必要措施,确保信息安全,防止在业务活动中收集的公民个人电子信息泄露、毁损、丢失。在发生或者可能发生信息泄露、毁损、丢失的情况时,应当立即采取补救措施。

五、网络服务提供者应当加强对其用户发布的信息的管理,发现法律、法规禁止发布或者传输的信息的,应当立即停止传输该信息,采取消除等处置措施,保存有关记录,并向有关主管部门报告。

六、网络服务提供者为用户办理网站接入服务,办理固定电话、移动电话等入网手续,或者为用户提供信息发布服务,应当在与用户签订协议或者确认提供服务时,要求用户提供真实身份信息。

七、任何组织和个人未经电子信息接收者同意或者请求,或者电子信息接收者明确表示拒绝的,不得向其固定电话、移动电话或者个人电子邮箱发送商业性电子信息。

八、公民发现泄露个人身份、散布个人隐私等侵害其合法权益的网络信息,或者受到商业性电子信息侵扰的,有权要求网络服务提供者删除有关信息或者采取其他必要措施予以制止。

九、任何组织和个人对窃取或者以其他非法方式获取、出售或者非法向他人提供公民个人电子信息的违法犯罪行为以及其他网络信息违法犯罪行为,有权向有关主管部门举报、控告;接到举报、控告的部门应当依法及时处理。被侵权人可以依法提起诉讼。

十、有关主管部门应当在各自职权范围内依法履行职责,采取技术措施和其他必要措施,防范、制止和查处窃取或者以其他非法方式获取、出售或者非法向他人提供公民个人电子信息的违法犯罪行为以及其他网络信息违法犯罪行为。有关主管部门依法履行职责时,网络服务提供者应当予以配合,提供技术支持。

国家机关及其工作人员对在履行职责中知悉的公民个人电子信息应当予以保密,不得泄露、篡改、毁损,不得出售或者非法向他人提供。

十一、对有违反本决定行为的,依法给予警告、罚款、没收违法所得、吊销许可证或者取消备案、关闭网站、禁止有关责任人员从事网络服务业务等处罚,记入社会信用档案并予以公布;构成违反治安管理行为的,依法给予治安管理处罚。构成犯罪的,依法追究刑事责任。侵害他人民事权益的,依法承担民事责任。

十二、本决定自公布之日起施行。

Saturday, December 29, 2012

On the 4th Anniversary of Liu Xiaobo's Detention: Censorship of "Charter 08"

In December 2008, Liu Xiaobo and over 300 other Chinese academics, activists, lawyers, and journalists signed Charter 08 (零八宪章), a document released on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 2009), written in the style of the Czechoslovakian Charter 77 calling for greater freedom of expression, human rights, and free elections.

On December 8, 2008, Liu was detained. On December 25, 2009, Liu was sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment and 2 years' deprivation of political rights for "inciting subversion of state power." In the verdict, Charter 08 was named as part of the evidence supporting his conviction. On February 11, 2010, the Beijing Higher People's Court rejected Liu's appeal and upheld the trial court's verdict.

On October 8, 2010 the Nobel Committee announced that Liu was to be awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." At the time of the announcement Liu was in prison serving 11 years for "subversion of state power."

This blog has previously discussed how web sites in China are censoring information regarding Liu Xiaobo and his Nobel Prize: http://blog.feichangdao.com/2012/10/chinese-websites-censor-nobel-peace.html.

These screenshots show Baidu search results for "Charter 08" (零八宪章) in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012:
  • January 2009: The month after Charter 08 is published, Baidu returned 11 search results from Xinhua, China Central Television, the People's Daily, and China.com.cn (operated by the State Council Information Office).
  • February 2010: On the day Liu's appeal was rejected, Baidu returned no results, only a notice saying: "Search results may not comply with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, and have not been displayed." (搜索结果可能不符合相关法律法规和政策,未予显示。) 
  • December 2011: Baidu said it can locate over 27,000 search results, although it appears they are limited to Baidu's broad white list, which is comprised of 100+ large portal and news web sites located in China.

 December 2012: Baidu says it can locate over 6,000 search results, although it appears they are limited to Baidu's broad white list (sina.com.cn is located in China, sina.com is located in Hong Kong).

These screenshots, also taken in December 2012, show that Baidu restricts search results for "08宪章" to its strict white list.
These screenshots show that Baidu continues to ban forums on "Charter 08" on its Tieba product, and searches for  "Charter 08" (零八宪章) on its Zhidao and Wenku products return no results.

These screenshots show that both Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo are completely censoring searches for "Charter 08" (零八宪章).

Friday, December 28, 2012

[Updated] A "Proposal for Consensus on Reform" (Almost) Disappears From China's Internet

Update December 31, 2012 - The copy of the Proposal posted on Zhang Qianfan's QQ blog was deleted on December 29. See below for details.

Update January 13, 2013 - The copy of the Proposal posted on the Beijing University Law School web site has also been deleted.

On the morning of December 27, 2012, the state sponsored Caxin published an article entitled "People Take Notice of 'Proposal for Consensus on Reform'." ("改革共识倡议书"受关注).  An excerpt:
Recently, a "Proposal for Consensus on Reform" signed by scholars has been making the rounds on the Internet. The 72 signatories include Beijing Law School professors Zhang Qianfan and He Weifang, legal scholars Jiang Ping and Guo Daohui, lawyer Zhang Sizhi, and modern historian Zhang Lifan.
The Proposal believes that, while China's economy has achieved enormous progress over the last 30 years of reform, China's society has also seen the appearance of many problems. Owing particularly to the inability of political reforms to keep pace, bureaucratic corruption, abuses of power, an expanding wealth gap, and other issues have become increasingly severe, and are trigger strong disatsifaction in society.
. . . .
The signatories proposed six reforms that include promoting constitutional governance, holding democratic elections, respecting freedom of expression, deepening the market economh, implementing judicial independance, and ensuring compliance with the Constitution. The Proposal believes that this "should comprise a consensus for reform for all rational citizens. 
近日,一份由学者联署的《改革共识倡议书》在网上流布。参与联署的有北大法学院教授张千帆、贺卫方、法学家江平、郭道晖、律师张思之、近代史学者章立凡等72人。
倡议书认为,改革三十多年来,中国经济获得了巨大发展,但是中国社会也出现了诸多问题。尤其是由于政治改革未能同步进行,官僚腐败、公权滥用、贫富差距拉大等现象日趋严重,引发了强烈的社会不满。
. . . .
联署者就此提出推进依宪执政、落实选举民主、尊重表达自由、深化市场经济、实现司法独立、保障宪法效力等六项改革主张。倡议书认为,这“应构成所有理性公民所认同的改革共识”。
This screenshot, taken on the evening of December 27, shows that the article, originally available at this URL - http://china.caixin.com/2012-12-27/100477502.html - had already been deleted and replaced with a notice saying "Sorry, page not found." (对不起,页面没有找到)
The article was reposted Yahoo News at http://news.cn.yahoo.com/ypen/20121227/1516619.html and on Tencent's QQ news portal at http://news.qq.com/a/20121227/001033.htm, but as these screenshots show, it was deleted from those web sites within hours as well.

These screenshots show that some time on the afternoon of December 27, Sina Weibo began censoring searches for the title of the document.

This screenshot, also taken on the afternoon of December 27, shows that Tencent Weibo was also censoring searches for the title.
Beijing University law professor Zhang Qianfan (张千帆) posted the document on at least three of  his blogs. As of the evening of December 28, it had been deleted from two of them, and remained available only on his QQ blog here - http://zhangqianfan.qzone.qq.com/#!app=2&via=QZ.HashRefresh&pos=1356424559.

Update December 31, 2012: As these screenshots show, the QQ blog post was deleted on December 29.

These screenshots show that at 2:00 pm on December 27, Zhang's "Proposal for Consensus on Reform" post was listed as the 3rd post on his Caixin blog's home page, and his blog had five posts for the month of December. A few hours later, the post no longer appeared in the list of posts, and his blog had only four posts for the month of December. On the evening of December 27, the URL where it originally appeared - http://zhangqianfan.blog.caixin.com/archives/50779 - directed users to a 404 error page.

Similarly, these screenshots show that the document was also deleted from Zhang's Caijing blog, which was originally available at this URL: http://blog.caijing.com.cn/expert_article-151521-45584.shtml.
The state-sponsored Guangming Daily also published the full the text of the Proposal on its web site at http://www.gmw.cn/xueshu/2012-12/27/content_6158540.htm, but as this screenshot shows, by the evening of October 27 it had swapped out the Proposal for an article entitled "Sun Liping: What Kind of Problems Does China Really Have When it Comes to Governing the Country in Accordance With Law?" (孙立平:中国的依法治国究竟是个什么问题?).
Update December 31, 2012: As of December 31, the text of the Proposal is still available on the Beijing University Law School web site here http://www.publiclaw.cn/article/Details.asp?NewsId=4090&ClassName=%C0%ED%C2%DB%C7%B0%D1%D8.

Update January 13, 2013: These screenshots show that the copy of the Proposal posted on the Beijing University Law School web site has also been removed and replaced with a blank page.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

State Media (Selectively) Translates Foreign Reports on China's Attempts to Move Internet Regulation to UN

From December 3 -14, 2012, the 12th World Conference on International Telecommunications ("WCIT") convened in Dubai to revise a key treaty of the International Telecommunication Union ("ITU"), a United Nations agency that sets standards for international telephone networks. According to the WCIT web site, their goal was to "review the current International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which serve as the binding global treaty designed to facilitate international interconnection and interoperability of information and communication services, as well as ensuring their efficiency and widespread public usefulness and availability."

Prior to the WCIT, China's position was that responsibility for regulating the Internet should be handed over to the UN. See: http://blog.feichangdao.com/2012/10/china-says-united-nations-best-forum.html.

On December 10, overseas media reported that "China, Russia and others have withdrawn controversial proposals at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) 2012 that would have given them greater control over the Internet, following a public backlash from dismayed onlookers." The document, posted here - http://files.wcitleaks.org/public/S12-WCIT12-C-0047!!MSW-E.pdf - was entitled "Proposals for the Work of the Conference," and indicated China, Russia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan and Egypt all wanted to be granted greater control over the Web.

Screenshot of first page of China's submission.
On December 13, the official Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily published an article entitled "Russia Proposes ITU Members Strengthen Administration of the Internet" (俄罗斯建议国际电信联盟成员国加强对互联网的管理). This is the complete text of the report:
According to the Rusnews website, eight countries, including Russia, continued to propose to the ITU that all countries strengthen administration of their domestically registered Internet resources. Russia and the seven other countries submitted a proposal asking the ITU to give its member state the power to assign, transfer, and reclaim domestically registered IP addresses and domain names.
据俄新网消息,包括俄罗斯在内的八个国家继续向国际电信联盟建议各国加强管理在其境内注册的网络资源。俄罗斯等八个国家再次提交建议,请求国际电信联盟赋予成员国对在其境内注册的IP地址和域名进行分配、转让和回收的权力。 
The Rusnews report.
The original title of the Rusnews report was "Russia and China Propose ITU Members Strengthen Administration of the Internet" (俄中建议国际电信联盟成员国加强对各国互联网的管理) . The report also stated:
Algeria, Cuba, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirites, China, and Russia had raised a proposal on Internet sovereignty with the ITU, but it was rejected.
阿尔及利亚、巴林、伊拉克、沙特阿拉伯、阿拉伯联合酋长国、中国和俄罗斯此前已向联合国国际电信联盟提交提高国家在互联网领域的主权建议,但被驳回。
On December 20, 2012, Xinhua published an article entitled "Foreign Media: Most Countries Support Increasing Oversight of the Internet." (外媒:多数国家支持加强互联网监管). The article contains no original reporting. Rather, it is a collection of partial translations of reports from the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and the New York Times that meticulously excises all negative references to China.

For example, the following shows how Xinhua excerpted  "America's First Big Digital Defeat," by L. Gordon Crovitz, published in the December 17 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Text that is struck out was omitted by the Xinhua version.
The open Internet, available to people around the world without the permission of any government, was a great liberation. It was also too good to last. Authoritarian governments this month won the first battle to close off parts of the Internet. 
At the just-concluded conference of the International Telecommunications Union in Dubai, the U.S. and its allies got outmaneuvered. The ITU conference was highly technical, which may be why the media outside of tech blogs paid little attention, but the result is noteworthy: A majority of the 193 United Nations member countries approved a treaty giving governments new powers to close off access to the Internet in their countries.
. . . .
Authoritarian regimes, led by Russia and China, have long schemed to use the U.N. to claim control over today's borderless Internet, whose open, decentralized architecture makes it hard for these countries to close their people off entirely. In the run-up to the conference, dozens of secret proposals by authoritarian governments were leaked online. 
. . . .
ITU head Hamadoun Touré, a Mali native trained in the Soviet Union, had assured that his agency operates by consensus, not by majority vote. He also pledged that the ITU had no interest beyond telecommunications to include the Internet. He kept neither promise.
A vote was called late one night last week in Dubai—at first described as a nonbinding "feel of the room on who will accept"—on a draft giving countries new power over the Internet. 
The result was 89 countries in favor, with 55 against. The authoritarian majority included Russia, China, Arab countries, Iran and much of Africa. Under the rules of the ITU, the treaty takes effect in 2015 for these countries. Countries that opposed it are not bound by it, but Internet users in free countries will also suffer as global networks split into two camps—one open, one closed. 
. . . .
The treaty document extends control over Internet companies, not just telecoms. It declares: "All governments should have an equal role and responsibility for international Internet governance." This is a complete reversal of the privately managed Internet. Authoritarian governments will invoke U.N. authority to take control over access to the Internet, making it harder for their citizens to get around national firewalls. They now have the U.N.'s blessing to censor, monitor traffic, and prosecute troublemakers.
This graphic, published by the ITU, shows which countries signed and which did not.
China was joined by countries such as Cuba, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Vietnam.
Non-signatories include Canada, Finland, India, Japan, Peru, and Switzerland.
Source: http://www.itu.int/osg/wcit-12/highlights/signatories.html

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Web Sites Censor Speculation That Xinhua Photoshopped a Photo of Li Keqiang

On December 24, 2012, Xinhua published an English language article entitled "Li Keqiang: A Man Who Puts People first."

The article included several photos showing Li Keqiang, including this one.

Within hours, Internet users began posting claims that the photo was a fake. For example, this screenshot shows an article posted on the same day on the Tianya blog here -  - entitled "Why Did Xinhua Use a PS'd Photo to Promote Li Keqiang?" (新华社推出李克强的照片 为什么用PS过的? - "PS" is shorthand for "photoshopped"). The post was deleted on December 25.

These screenshots show that, also at some time on December 25, Sina Weibo began censoring searches for "Xinhua PS" (新华社 PS).

Several users pointed out that the photo in question looks remarkably similar to one that is available on the Guangming Daily web site here - http://difang.gmw.cn/ln/node_29590.htm.

Monday, December 24, 2012

When It Comes to Free Speech, Mo Yan Agrees With Father of the Great Firewall: China is an Airplane and Chinese are Passengers

On February 18, 2011, the English language website of the Global Times (published by the People's Daily) published an article about Fang Binxing (方滨兴) entitled "Great Firewall Father Speaks Out." It was originally here - http://special.globaltimes.cn/2011-02/624290.html - but was subsequently deleted. Some excerpts:
The father of the Great Firewall of China (GFW) has signed up to six virtual private networks (VPNs) that he uses to access some of the websites he had originally helped block.
. . . .
Fang concedes his Great Firewall doesn't do a great job of distinguishing between good and evil information. If a website contains sensitive words, the firewall often simply blocks everything "due to the limitations of the technology," he says, expecting it would become more sophisticated in the future. 
"The firewall monitors them and blocks them all," he says. "It's like when passengers aren't allowed to take water aboard an airplane because our security gates aren't good enough to differentiate between water and nitroglycerin."
Mo Yan (莫言), the 2012 Nobel Laureate in literature, apparently also feels this metaphor is apt. When asked about censorship in China at a press conference at the Royal Swedish Academy on December 6, 2012, Mo said: "When I was taking my flight, going through the customs ... they also wanted to check me — even taking off my belt and shoes. . . . But I think these checks are necessary."

Mo's position earned him the praise of the Global Times:

"Santa Claus" Not a Sensitive Term, But What About "Snuffleupagus"?

Aloysius Snuffleupagus, also known as "Mr. Snuffleupagus" or "Snuffy," is a recurring character on the American television program Sesame Street. He resembles a woolly mammoth with a long thick pointed tail, brown hair, and a trunk, or "snuffle," that drags along the ground.

Snuffy is, by Muppet standards at least, a controversial and divisive figure. For many years he was a source of tension on Sesame Street, as Big Bird was the only character who could see him. Then in 1992 it was revealed that his parents had divorced. Sesame Street originally planned to address the affair, going so far as to film an episode on the subject. That episode proved so controversial that it has been extensively censored in the United States and Canada.

This screenshot, taken on December 16, 2012, show that a search on Baidu for "Snuffleupagus" returns apparently uncensored results.

However, these screenshots show that when a user tries to search for Snuffleupagus and the names of members of the Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, Baidu returns no results, only a notice saying "Search results may not comply with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, and have not been displayed. We suggest trying other related words." (搜索结果可能不符合相关法律法规和政策,未予显示。建议尝试其他相关词。)
Searches for "Snuffleupagus" and "Xi Jinping," "Li Keqiang," and "Zhang Dejiang"
return no results, just a censorship notice.
This screenshot shows Baidu is also completely censoring searches for "Xi Jinping Snuffy" and "Xi Jinping 史纳菲" (Snuffy's name in Chinese).

These screenshots show that similar searches on Baidu for other (arguably) fictional characters are not similarly censored.
Searches for "Xi Jinping Mickey Mouse" and "Xi Jinping Santa Claus"
return dozens of results.
Baidu's censorship extends to the names of some, but not all, controversial political figures. For example, these screenshots show that, when a user searches for "Bo Xilai Snuffleupagus" (薄熙来) Baidu returns a censorship notice. But when a user searches for "Wang Lijun Snuffleupagus" (王立军) Baidu simply says it is unable to find any results.

Baidu also seems to be censoring results that connect Snuffy to certain controversial events.  These screenshots show that when a user searches for Snuffleupagus and "Jasmine Revolution" (茉莉花革命) and "Six Four" (六四) Baidu returns only a censorship notice. But a search for "18th Party Congress Snuffleupagus" (十八大) returns almost 100 results, and a search for "Mid-Autumn Moon Festival Snuffleupagus" (中秋节) returns a notice saying no search results can be found (but there is no censorship notice).

It is difficult to say whether there is any connection between these incidents and Baidu's censorship. It is also unclear why Baidu is singling out the relatively obscure Mr. Snuffleupagus for complete censorship, while still returning censored results for queries containing the names of far more infamous figures, such as the sadistic Wile E. Coyote (Super Genius) and Legion of Doom member Gorilla Grodd.
Baidu restricts search results for "Xi Jinping Wile E. Coyote" and
"Xi Jinping Gorilla Grodd" to is broad white list.
This is all the more puzzling because Snuffy features prominently on the China-based http://www.sesamestreetchina.com.cn, appearing on the home page and having his own profile. But it might be possible to read something into the fact that Snuffy's profile is listed last, even coming after Zoe, who is well-known for her bourgeoisie obsession with ballet.
If you're still reading - yes, this post is intended to be tongue-in-cheek. The screenshots are all real (no photoshopping), but the most likely explanation is that Snuffy is a victim of collateral censorship, not the target of actual censorship. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

How Other Websites Are Censoring Leaders' Names After the 18th Party Congress

This blog has recently posted examples of how Sina Weibo and Baidu have changed how they approach censoring search results for the names of members of the Politburo Standing Committee since the conclusion of the 18th Party Congress in November. In summary:
  • Sina Weibo - http://blog.feichangdao.com/2012/12/sina-weibo-enacts-new-7-day-delay.html
    • Before: No results, just a censorship notice. 
    • After: Results are delayed for seven days (except for "Hot Posts").
  • Baidu - http://blog.feichangdao.com/2012/12/baidus-new-censorship-policies-for.html
    • Before: Any search containing the name of a leader was restricted to Baidu's strict white list, which is comprised of about a dozen websites controlled by the central government and the Communist Party - People's Daily, Xinhua, etc. 
    • After: Searches containing only the name of a leader is restricted to Baidu's strict white list. Searches containing the name of a leader and a non-sensitive term is restricted to Baidu's broad white list, which is comprised of 100+ large web sites located in China - Tencent, Sohu, Netease, Sina.com.cn (but not Sina.com).
Here are some examples of what other popular websites in China are doing.

Qihoo Search

These screenshots show that Qihoo has been tweaking its search results for "Xi Jinping" over the last two months. During the 18th Party Congress (November 8 - 15) Qihoo was restricting search results to its strict white list. Immediately following the conclusion of the Congress, Qihoo changed to only restricting search results to its broad white list. One month later, Qihoo is once again restricting search results to its strict white list.
Searches on Qihoo for "Xi Jinping" restricted to the China-based Sina.com.cn
A search on Qihoo on December 22 for Xi Jinping restricted to the Hong Kong-based
Sina.com returns no results, just a censorship notice.
Sogou Search

These screenshots show that, like Baidu and Qihoo, Sogou was tweaking its censorship over the last two months, initially restricting search results to its broad white list, then blacklisting search results altogether, then finally restricting search results to the white list once again.
But these screenshots show that things aren't quite that simple. Looking at the left-hand screenshot, it would appear that search results for "Xi Jinping" plus a non-sensitive keyword (in this case, "reform") are also restricted to the broad white list. The right-hand screenshots, however, show that it is possible to get search results from web sites that are not on the broad white list if the user explicitly looks for them (in this case, by including the parameter "site:" and wsj.com).
And while all of this might lead users to think that Sogou has abandoned its strict white list, these screenshots show that Sogou is still restricting searches for "Xi Jinping Peng Liyuan" (彭丽媛 - Xi Jinping's wife) to its strict white list.
Finally, these screenshots show that Sogou continues to completely censor certain search results - in this case searches for "New York Times" and "Hu Jintao," "Wen Jiabao," "Xi Jinping," and "Li Keqiang" return no results, just a censorship notice.

Jike Search

Jike is a search engine launched by the People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party. As these screenshots show, searches for "Xi Jinping" and "Li Keqiang," which on other search engines are restricted to the white list, on Jike return results from the broad white list.

But as these screenshots show, Jike will also completely censor certain search results - in these examples searches for "Xi Mingze" (习明泽 the daughter of Xi Jiping) and site:Boxun.com (a Chinese news web site based outside of China) both return no results, just a censorship notice.


Tencent Weibo

Tencent Weibo does not impose a seven day delay like its counterpart Sina Weibo. Instead, Tencent provides (apparently) real-time results, but restricts search results for leaders' names to posts made by users whose identities have been verified. These screenshots show that, while a search for "Obama" yields results from both verified (red) and non-verified (blue) users, searches for "Xi Jinping" and "Li Keqiang" only yield results from verified users.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Baidu's New Censorship Policies for Leaders' Names After the 18th Party Congress

Prior to November 2012, Baidu's practice was to restrict all queries containing the name of a member of
Searches on Oct. 27, 2012 for PBSC members' names on
Baidu restricted to Sina.com.cn return no results.
the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China ("PBSC") to a strict white list of about a dozen websites controlled by the central government and the Communist Party:
State Run News Outlets 
The China Daily (chinadaily.com.cn)
The Economic Daily (www.ce.cn)
The People's Daily (people.com.cn)
The Guang Ming Daily (gmw.cn)
Xinhua (xinhuanet.com)
China News Service (chinanews.com.cn) 
State Run Broadcasters 
China Radio International (cri.cn)
China Central Television (cctv.com and cntv.com) 
Government Agencies 
Communist Party Youth League (youth.cn)
Central Government (www.gov.cn)
State Council Information Office (china.com.cn)
State Council Taiwan Affairs Office(chinataiwan.org)
In early 2012 Baidu also began including its own "Baike" Wikipedia clone in its strict white list - https://plus.google.com/u/0/106378980111121757454/posts/K6wRmyDbJEV.

In the weeks surrounding the 18th Party Congress, which convened from November 8 - 15, Baidu began tweaking its censorship of the names of current and future PBSC members' names, in some cases relaxing its censorship of those names and returning search results from its broad white list, which includes large China-based news and portal websites such as Sina, Sohu, and Tencent. See: http://blog.feichangdao.com/2012/11/as-politburo-standing-committee.html

One month after the conclusion of the 18th Party Congress, Baidu appears to have settled on the following censorship policies for the names of senior government leaders:
  • Search results for queries containing only a member's name in Chinese are restricted to the strict white list.
  • Searches for member's names on Baidu's Tieba, Zhidao, and Wenku products return no results.
  • Search results for queries containing a member's name in Chinese plus a sensitive term are either restricted to the strict white list or censored completely.
  • New Search results for queries containing a member's name in Chinese plus a non-sensitive term are restricted to the broad white list.
Some examples:

These screenshots show that searches for "Hu Jintao" in 2009 and 2012 only returned results from Baidu's strict white list.

These screenshots show that a search for "Egypt Hu Jintao" in February 2011 only returned results from Baidu's strict white list. The same search in December 2012 returned results from Baidu's broad white list.

These screenshots, taken in December 2012, show that a search for "Egypt Hu Jintao site:sina.com.cn" returns tens of thousands of search results, while a search for "Namibia Hu Jintao site:sina.com.cn" returns no results, only a censorship notice.
These screenshots, also taken in December 2012, show that a search for "Xi Jinping" only returns results from Baidu's strict white list, but a search for "Xi Jinping Reform" returns results from Baidu's broad white list.
But these screenshots show that, while Baidu returned over a million results for a search for "Xi Jinping" restricted to the China-based Sina.com.cn, the same search on the Hong Kong-based Sina.com returned no results, just a censorship notice.

Finally, these screenshots, also taken in December 2012, show that a search for "Xi Jinping" on Baidu's Tieba, Zhidao, and Wenku products still returns no results.


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