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.

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