Decrypt Weibo

***Click here to start decrypting censored weibos now***

Frequent Sina Weibo users will have no doubt seen this message before:

抱歉,此微博不适宜对外公开。如需帮助,请联系客服 .”

This message translates as:

“Sorry, this weibo is not suitable for the public. Please contact customer support for help.”  

“Not suitable for the public” is just an euphemism for censored. The weibo most frequently subjected to this kind of treatment focus on discussions of current and topical events.

Weibo users will see this message often when viewing their own timelines, conducting searches on Sina Weibo or when viewing someone’s profile page. The retweet of the censored weibo is however sometimes not censored. Weibo users are thus left with an intriguing comment but have no way to view the original weibo.

In an effort to solve this problem, Freeweibo.com is pleased to announce the launch of Decrypt Weibo which will make an effort to address this problem. Now, when Sina Weibo users stumble upon such messages, they can click the posted time on the lower left corner and obtain a link like http://www.weibo.com/2093591281/Ab4YMlFgS.

By copying and pasting the weibo URL on Decrypt Weibo Sina Weibo users can then decrypt the weibo and read the original censored message.

It takes a few seconds for FreeWeibo.com to decrypt the original message:


 

Sina Weibo users are used to seeing this “customer service” message and have accepted that censorship on Sina Weibo is occurring on a regular basis. Many users even developed the habit to save the disk to local computer first then retweet when seeing sensitive information. This is largely because they do not have any other recourse to view the censored information. With the launch of Decrypt Weibo, we have taken a big step forward in allowing Sina Weibo users the ability to read their timeline completely. No longer will Chinese internet users be left in the dark about what information has been censored on the country’s largest social network.

Given recent events surrounding Weibo big Vs practicing self-censorship, perhaps there will be less controversial content which needs to be censored. However, we also know that one message can make a big difference, and we are delighted to be able to provide Sina Weibo users with the ability to see this information whenever they want to.

***Click here to start decrypting censored weibos now***

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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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