New censorship on weibo

Back in October, we mentioned that weibo rolled out new semi-censorship. Apparently this is not enough. Now weibo has four different ways to censor keywords.

A. Explicit complete censorship

根据相关法律法规和政策,“[the blocked keyword]”搜索结果未予显示。

This translates into:

According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results for [the blocked keyword] can not be displayed.

Keyword example: 六四

Note: This is the good old way of censorship since the beginning of weibo.

B. Implicit complete censorship

抱歉,未找到“[the blocked keyword]”相关结果。

This translates into:

Sorry, no relevant results could be found for [the blocked keyword].

Keyword example: 江泽民

Note: This is a brand new form of censorship. Sina weibo used to admit what they censored. Now this message will also be shown to b keywords which actually have no results such as "dsfhadslfhadsljk".

C. Explicit semi-censorship

根据相关法律法规和政策,部分搜索结果未予显示。

This translates into:

According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, some of the search results can not be displayed.

Note: This method is employed around October as mentioned in the blog post.

D. Implicit semi-censorship

When you search for the keywords, only some selected results are returned. With a message at the button, stating

为了提供多样性结果,我们省略了部分相似微博,您可以点击查看全部搜索结果.。

This translates into:

In order to provide a diversity of results, we omitted some similar results. You could click here to view all results.

However, this message is shown to every keyword(except complete censored ones and those actually without any results). So you cannot determine the keyword is semi-censored from this message alone. When you click to view all results, sina weibo will append "&nodup=1" to the end of the search url. Now it will show the exact same message as b. Implicit complete censorship.

抱歉,未找到“[the blocked keyword]”相关结果。

This translates into:

Sorry, no relevant results could be found for [the blocked keyword].

Keyword example: 习近平

Note: This is a brand new way of censorship. It's really interesting to see how keywords are censored. For example, the censorship status of "习近平" went from a->not censored(?)->c->d->c. As I started to write this post, it was d, as I used web-archive to record it. When I'm writing this sentence 28 minutes later, however, it switched back to c. Another keyword "江泽民" went from a->b->a->b and stays at b. Our system could now detect censorship a, b(false positive of "dsfhadslfhadsljk" is inevitable), c. We might update our system to detect d if more keywords are censored this way in a prolonged time. Last but not least, this is merely censorship of searching on weibo. Much emphasis is also put on preventing users from posting sensitive weibo. Some keywords couldn't be posted on weibo in the first place, others will trigger a manual review by censors. Unfortunately, we haven't monitored that kind of censorship yet. But you could visit https://freeweibo.com/en to view recently censored posts on weibo.

Update: Now Sina has the 5th way of censoring keywords-7 day delay, please read Sina Weibo Enacts New "7 Day Delay" Function for Sensitive Terms Following 18th Party Congress for detail.

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Wed, Mar 19, 2014

Bing Bests Baidu Censorship

Abstract

Independent research from Xia Chu has shown that, in addition to non-China content, Bing censors a vast amount of content that is hosted inside China and which is not censored by China-based internet companies like Baidu. After communicating our issues with Microsoft, Bing removed certain censorship rules (kudos to Bing), but much work remains to be done.

We recently called for Microsoft to release its transparency report for Bing (as have others - full disclosure, Rebecca sits on our advisory board).  Microsoft has yet to respond to this request. But Xia’s independent research of Bing’s China censorship policy could be regarded as a de facto transparency report for the search engine.

In this thorough study, the results of which we have verified, Xia examined Bing's SERP (search engine results page) for over 30,000 sensitive and nonsensitive query terms, and launched these queries from both inside and outside of China. Comparing and examining these results, plus querying with special search operators, reveals unprecedented detail on Bing's China filtering practices.

The main findings from Xia’s research include:

  • Bing has a list of “forbidden” terms where no results are shown. 139 such terms have been identified.

  • Bing has a blacklist of websites that it never shows to China users. 329 such websites are identified. (5 have been lifted after our communication with Microsoft.)

Thu, Feb 13, 2014

Setting Bing's Broken Record Straight

We can also now trace complicit Bing Chinese censorship back to 2009 as highlighted by Nicholas Kristof. It looks like Microsoft has indeed changed its censorship mechanism after our research made headlines this week. But Bing is still seriously flawed on two fronts: its algorithm favors pro-Chinese government websites by default on all search terms in simplified Chinese and their front end mistakenly delivers explicit censorship of search results on some search terms for users from all over the world.

Wed, Feb 12, 2014

No error here: Microsoft deploying Chinese censorship on global scale

Microsoft says: “The results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China”. This is simply not true.

Tue, Feb 11, 2014

Bing practicing Chinese censorship globally

Our latest research indicates that Microsoft’s search engine Bing is censoring English and Chinese language search on its home page in order to exclude certain results. We have also noticed that Bing is practicing subtle censorship with search results. In both instances, Bing is filtering out links and stories that the Chinese authorities would deem damaging.

Thu, Jan 23, 2014

Massive blocking of foreign media in China

After Tuesday’s report Leaked Records Reveal Offshore Holdings of China’s Elite by ICIJ, China blocked a number of major newspaper websites. All websites below were blocked after publishing copies of the original report. They're all listed as the publishing partners for “Chinaleaks” stories on ICIJ's website. The Great Firewall rarely blocks non-Chinese websites. Many of them have published the Chinese version of the report which probably explains the unusual development.

Newspaper

Main Language

Article

http://www.icij.org

English

Chinese

http://www.theguardian.com

English

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