Lots of interesting thinking in Cambridge in the last few weeks about internet censorship in China. For those of you who missed it, last Monday, June 4 marked the 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests and spurred online discussion about what was and wasn’t clearing the censors.
- Back in May, Nieman Lab reported on what could be deduced about censorship by analyzing the posts deleted from Weibo, a popular microblogging service.
- EFF reported on an expanded list of censored terms related to the anniversary, including miraculously stopping time by deleting the terms for “today” and “tomorrow.” In a feat of Orwellian absurdity, “Weibo blocked all forms of the numbers eight, nine, six, and four, which resulted in accidental censorship of reports about the Shanghai Stock Exchange when the market index fell 64.89 points.”
- Lastly, finally got around to reading this (nearly equation-free!) paper by Gary King, Jennifer Pan, and Margaret Roberts, which ﬁnds that the widespread censorship is less about eliminating criticism of local government and more aimed to stop discussions with collective action potential.
I think a lot about ways in which what we see is victim to implicit filtering – captured well by Eli Pariser in The Filter Bubble – and it’s fascinating to see different ways censorship as an explicit goal plays out.