Heavier restrictions are becoming the norm in Xi Jinping’s Chinaby Yuan Ren / January 25, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
I reply to my friend: “What are you talking about?” We are on WeChat, China’s most popular social media platform, a kind of Facebook-Whats-App hybrid. A message I had received referred to “the above photo.” There was no photo.
My friend responds with a screenshot from his phone—and there it is, the missing picture. It had seemingly been plucked out, somewhere en route. But there was no error message. This is the new age of Chinese online censorship: automated and sneaky.
WeChat has over 768m daily users, and just like Sina Weibo (China’s Twitter) it self-censors. As well as automated content filtering, company censors remove sensitive material in line with government rules. The same friend often sends me articles, saying, semi-jokingly, “open quickly, this link will self-destruct in 60 mins.” Sometimes, they’re blocked when the message arrives.