As you may be aware, the Chinese government has a love/hate relationship with the internet. It is necessary for the country to be a full participant in the global economy, but it has also given Chinese citizens an outlet to vent frustrations and poke fun at those in power. It is the closest thing that China has to a ‘public square.’
No place is this ‘public square’ feature of the Chinese internet more visible than on “weibo” (micro-blog), the Chinese Twitter-like platforms that are so popular here. In recent months, the government has tried to rein in the free-wheeling nature of speech on the microblogs by instituting requirements for real-name registration and by requiring the microblog services to enforce bans on certain words that the government deems ‘sensitive.
Of course there is a long list of words that are permanantly sensitive; these are mostly political in nature. Other words wander on and off the list, according to the current political environment or the current affairs of the moment. Censors will also ‘ban’ certain words or phrases when they deem discussion of a current hot topic to be getting out of hand, and thus reflecting badly on the leadership or getting to the point where it feels social stability is threatened.
Interestingly, the word that got banned on weibo this week was “Ferarri,” as in that super expensive and fast car. Here’s the story as reported by the BBC:
Information about a Ferrari car crash that killed a man in China, as well as the word “Ferrari”, appear to have been deleted from websites, state media report.
The incident happened on Sunday in Beijing’s Haidian district, says the Beijing Evening News paper. Reports say two female passengers were injured.
The apparent censorship has raised questions about the driver’s identity.
It comes after new rules for Beijing microbloggers took effect on Friday.
Based on photos posted online, the black car was “ripped in half”, with “the engine in flames”, the Global Times newspaper says.
The newspaper also quoted an official as saying that one of the female passengers sustained “a head injury and a fractured leg”, but no information about the other passenger was provided.
Searches about the accident and the word “Ferrari” were deleted from Chinese microblog sites like Sina Weibo and web portals, media report.
“Ferrari crash information hushed up,” read the Global Times headline.
“Almost all online information” about the crash had been “deleted overnight, triggering suspicions as to the identity of the deceased driver,” the paper went on to say.
It said Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, “deleted all microblog posts which mentioned the accident, and blocked online searches of the word ‘Ferrari'”. News reports about the crash were deleted from many other web portals, the paper said.
What is so interesting about this story is the fact that it was The Global Times, a government-run newspaper that broke the story of the censorship!
Wait….what? I’m confused!!!
(Image Source: The Telegraph)