The Most-Censored Events on Chinese Social Media
March 8, 2018
King-wa Fu is an Associate Professor at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong. His research focuses on political participation and media use, computational media…
Channing Huang is a Hong Kong-based journalist. She graduated from the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong in 2017. Previously, Huang reported for Hong Kong online…
Kylin Zhang is currently a Master’s student at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong. As an intern reporter, she used to work for Zhejiang Daily and Global Times…
China might be the world’s second-largest economy, and have more Internet users than any other country, but each year it is ranked as the nation that enjoys the least Internet freedom among the 65 sample nations scored by the U.S.-based Freedom House.
There is little new about China’s low ranking in the annual Internet freedom report (which notably doesn’t include China’s neighbor North Korea). But each year, the Weiboscope social media analytics project of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at The University of Hong Kong keeps tabs on which topics on Weibo, one of China’s busiest social media platforms, are most censored.
Weibo’s most-censored posts can be revealing in that they demonstrate the way the Chinese social media users’ views of current events can veer quickly away from the guardrails that the government’s censors erect to “guide public opinion.” Weibo has been censored heavily since its launch in August 2009, but even so, in January, The Cyberspace Administration of China excoriated Weibo’s owners for allowing “content of wrong public opinion orientation” to invest their platform, and, just last week, censors erased images of Winnie the Pooh that users posted in comments about the abolishment of presidential term limits, a move that could allow for continued rule by current President Xi Jinping, who it is said resembles the portly cartoon bear.
Some censorship is routine in China. For example, each year messages are censored if they appear to make fun of the annual Lunar New Year gala on state-run broadcaster China Central Television in late January or early February, criticize the annual gathering of the national legislature in the “Two Sessions” in early March, or, each June 4, renew attention to the grievances of the families of the people killed by the People’s Liberation Army in the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. Each year these events spark a lot of online discussion, and each year few people are surprised when the censors scrub many of the messages. (This is the third year we’ve done this report and messages about June 4 haven’t yet made it onto our Top 10 list because they’re often censored so quickly that they have little chance to gain volume and momentum.)
Other censorship, in reaction to unforeseen events, is harder to predict. A deadly fire in Hangzhou in late June sparked intense discussion about the widening wealth gap between China’s rich (in this case, the mother and three children who died in the fire), and the nation’s poor (the nanny who set the blaze)—resulting in the event’s becoming the most-censored topic that Weiboscope tracked on Weibo in 2017.
The platform’s 340 million active monthly users sometimes take screenshots of content they suspect may soon draw unwanted official attention and get censored. The Weibo users then repost these images of censored content with commentary to extend an online conversation the authorities may be trying to interrupt. Sometimes censors shut down discussion of topics that generate wide public attention only to ignore posts on the same topic, once the initial rush of comments has died down.
The Weiboscope tally below is intended to highlight the issues that caused the loudest public debate and drew the heaviest-handed censorship.
Ten Most-Censored Weibo Events of 2017: Our Approach
Weiboscope analyzed and sorted through hundreds of thousands of Weibo posts to compile the list of the 10 Most-Censored Weibo Events in 2017. We focused on a sample set of 120,000 Weibo accounts that included both a set of users with large numbers of followers and a set of randomly selected accounts. Our computer program visited each account throughout the year and tracked its posts. When it revisited a post and an error message was returned saying “permission denied,” we deduced that the post had been censored.
After recording and analyzing all the messages published by the accounts from January 1 through December 31, we narrowed our focus onto the 100 most-censored topics or events—those about which there were many posts that were reposted by other accounts in the shortest period of time between publication and deletion—what we call the “repost-to-survival-time ratio.” Looking at this short list, our research team then selected the 10 subjects on which censors removed the greatest number of messages. We then translated one or two posts for each of the 10 most-censored subjects into English and tried to explain why they drew so much heat. Following is our ranking of the 10 Most-Censored Weibo Events of 2017 according to our repost-to-survival-time ratio.
Hangzhou Nanny’s Arson
China Central Television New Year’s Gala
Beijing Kindergarten Sexual Abuse Scandal
Survey on Middle East Refugees
“Low-End Population” Migrants Evictions
Liu Xiaobo’s Death
Sacking of Head Table Tennis Coach Liu Guoliang
19th Communist Party Congress
Sexual Assault at the Beijing Film Academy
Child Bride in Wushan
To protect the identities of the people whose posts were censored, we have omitted their Weibo handles, except for a few users whose handles are clearly pseudonyms or in which cases their names have widely been cited in the media.
1. Hangzhou Nanny’s Arson
Posted June 28 at 12:06 p.m.
Generated at least 83,999 reposts in 7 hours and 18 minutes
Original: 杭州蓝色钱江6·22火灾受害者家属的公开求助信 正文内容如图 请各位网友互相转告，转发扩散
Translation: An open letter issued by the family of the victims of the June 22 Hangzhou fire. Full text in the picture [below]. Everyone please repost and spread this message [Pray] [Pray] [Pray]
In this high-profile arson case in Hangzhou, a nanny was accused of starting an apartment fire that killed a mother and her three children on June 22. The nanny, Mo Huanjing, reportedly started the fire in Hangzhou intending to extinguish it quickly and win favor with her boss, from whom she wished to borrow money to pay off gambling debts. The family members of the victims accused the property management office of negligence and destruction of evidence, and accused the fire department of failure to rescue and revive the victims. They released an open letter online, seeking redress from local officials, which was then removed from the Internet. Many of the messages posted to Weibo about the incident noted the wealth gap between the nanny and her employer, and commented on growing tensions between China’s rich and poor.
Additionally, many users echoed the family members’ claims and blamed the company managing the apartment where the fire broke out for lax safety standards and unclear emergency procedures. The open letter pictured above was addressed to Zhejiang Governor Yuan Jiajun and Provincial Party Secretary Che Jun, asking for a fair judgment.
“For China’s leaders, tragedy is threatening because it summons raw human emotion,” Chinese media researcher David Bandurski observed in a 2015 essay, “and when that emotion fixes purposefully on the human causes of calamity it becomes its own destructive wave, with the potential to undermine political legitimacy.”
A translated excerpt of the open letter that drew the censors’ attention follows:
. . .The fire took away four members of our beloved family. Mother Zhu Xiaozheng and her three young children are gone forever. During the crucial first two hours of rescue time, the fire alarm system went down, the fire hydrant had insufficient pressure, and, for many other reasons, a tragedy could have been avoided.
. . .We have been waiting for an acceptable explanation from the relevant authorities, but have been disappointed. We saw all responsible parties keeping silent; we saw the property management company deleting fire hydrant maintenance records; we saw our posts on Weibo and WeChat being censored. . .
. . .We are just ordinary people. We know it will be really hard to seek justice from the powerful real estate group and the authorities, but we will never give up.
In this case, blaming the authorities for negligence failed, and in February 2018 the nanny was sentenced to death.
2. China Central Television New Year’s Gala
Posted January 27 at 8:18 p.m.
Generated at least 15,415 reposts in 1 hour and 28 minutes
Translation: A flock of chickens appeared on the stage of the Lunar New Year Gala in the Year of the Rooster. . . I guess the television signal in Xinjiang will be cut when it comes to the Year of the Pig.
Posted January 27 at 12:00 p.m.
Generated at least 36,822 responses in 3 hours and 35 minutes
Original: #春晚# 大家好，这是今年的春晚节目单吐槽…… [Chaos emoticon]
Translation: #newyeargala# Hi everyone, here’s a rundown of the roasts of this year’s New Year’s Gala…… [Chaos emoticon]
Each year in late winter, a reported 700 million Chinese tune in to watch the China Central Television (CCTV) Lunar New Year Gala, making it the most-watched television show on earth. In the last decade, however, the show has faced increased criticism for featuring lackluster performers and comedy sketches with awkward punchlines.
The two weibo posts above complained about the 2017 New Year’s Gala, which welcomed in the Year of the Rooster, according to the Chinese zodiac. The first slammed the show’s opening featuring a group of children in chicken costumes. If the same idea were used for the Year of the Pig gala (in 2019), the jab seemed to suggest, a group of children dressed as pigs on stage might offend the people of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in China’s far West, where there is a significant population of Muslim Uighurs for whom consumption of pork is forbidden. China exercises unprecedented controls in Xinjiang, including recent blackouts of the Internet. These measures limit communications between Uighurs, many of whom are unhappy with Beijing’s rule. Censors might have removed the Weibo post about a Year of the Pig blackout to avoid making jokes that could offend Muslims, and also to avoid acknowledging the media crackdown.
The second post used hand-drawn comics to poke fun at the similarity of the show from one year to the next, for always featuring singers and actors from Hong Kong and Taiwan, and for featuring ethnic minorities performing messages of national harmony and unity, propaganda-style. Also repeated year after year are a flood of popular reality TV show stars and the same show-ending song, a tune called “Can’t Forget Tonight.”
3. Beijing Kindergarten Sexual Abuse Scandal
Posted November 22 at 2:27 p.m.
Generated at least 42,702 reposts in 8 hours and 20 minutes
Translation: #RedYellowBlueKindergarten# A pattern of child sexual abuse occurred at Beijing’s Red Yellow Blue Kindergarten. The head of the school even prostituted students, allowing abusers to select boys and girls to drug and molest.
Posted November 28 at 4:15 p.m.
Generated at least 30,114 reposts in 4 hours and 44 minutes
Original: 看完马上就被说服了！逻辑清晰，如沐春风 (微信: 共青团中央)。
Translation: I am immediately convinced after reading! The logic is so clear, just like a breath of fresh air (WeChat account: Communist Youth League of China).
On the afternoon of November 22, 2017, several parents of students at the Red Yellow Blue Kindergarten in Beijing reported to the Chaoyang district police that the head of the kindergarten and some of its teachers were sexually abusing the schoolchildren. According to the screenshot in the censored post above, the students were given white pills and brown syrup, and also injected with an unidentified brown liquid. The children then were asked to take off all their clothes for a “body check” while being forced to watch other children being sexually abused. The teachers made the students believe that the activities were normal in the classroom and their abuse was kept secret until one girl fainted after school.
The second post includes a screen capture of some of the text of an article published on the official public WeChat account of the Communist Youth League of China, which is affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party and is thought to reflect the “Party line.” The text in the image in the Weibo post reads:
This case indicates some problems:
Child abuse also exists in developed countries, which means economic development cannot eliminate child abuse;
Many developed countries have comprehensive legal systems and strict punishments for child abusers but still cannot eliminate the problem;
Certified kindergarten teachers may also abuse children, so the government’s regulation of a teacher’s qualification cannot eliminate the problem either;
People should be responsible for their own behavior. The government is not their parent, and should not bear the consequences.
The comment posted with the screen capture (“I am immediately convinced after reading! The logic is so clear. . .”) is a sarcastic response, mocking the Party for avoiding responsibility.
4. Survey on Middle East Refugees
Posted June 20, 2017 at 3:09 p.m.
Generated at least 77,948 reposts in 26 hours and 25 minutes
Translation: Stop promoting the idea of taking in refugees. It’s nauseating and I strongly condemn it. The government should stop acting foolish. You don’t have that kind of power and it would be reckless to accept refugees. You guys didn’t enforce family planning for three decades to make space for outsiders. If you started taking in refugees, would that be fair to the Chinese people? Would that be fair to families who lost their only child? Would it be fair to women you forced to have abortions?…
Posted June 22, 2017 at 14:56:47
Generated at least 12,141 responses in 2 hours and 54 minutes
Original: 我发起了一个投票 【中东难民持续增多，中国政府是否有责任接收难民？】
Translation: I have started a poll: The number of Middle East refugees is mounting. Is the Chinese government obliged to take in refugees?
On June 20, World Refugee Day, state-run CCTV aired a program recognizing the nation’s efforts in the Middle East refugee crisis. As demonstrated in the first censored post, some Internet users viewed the the program as a sign that the Chinese government was preparing to take in refugees.
Surveys asking whether or not China should take in refugees started to emerge on social media. The second post above was published by the Guangdong Communist Youth League. But the first survey on the topic was launched by a Weibo user called @TangNDshuo. The poll and its results can still be seen on Weibo. The user asked “Do you think that China should take in Middle East refugees?” It generated 150,000 responses within a day and more than 95 percent of them were “No.”
5. “Low-End Population”
Posted November 26, 2017 at 11:09 a.m.
Generated at least 26,386 reposts in 6 hours and 25 minutes
I read two stories in a group chat.
A couple from Jiangxi province lived in an apartment close to Jufuyuan [in Beijing]. When it [Beijing’s mass eviction] happened, they escaped from the apartment with their six-month-old daughter, leaving all their belongings at home. Three days later, they were allowed to return to the apartment and given 15 minutes to pack, in the dark, due to a power outage. In these 15 minutes, they tried to pack valuable belongings including three cans of infant formula and their washing machine. Then they were asked to sign an agreement to give up everything else. But their child’s only…
The government used the phrase “low-end population” in several official documents to describe the poor migrant laborers who flock to Beijing from less prosperous parts of China. Many of these migrants live in tight quarters and unsafe dwellings, often on or near the site of their workplace. A fire that killed 19 people in a textile manufacturing district in Beijing sparked a citywide clean-up campaign. Authorities targeted thousands of migrant workers and forced them out of their accommodations in sudden mass evictions that generated outrage online and drew some degree of sympathy from broader society. Some individuals and non-government organizations volunteered to help those who were forced from their homes, but police have impeded good samaritanism. The censored post above (which is the opening part of a longer post) tells the story of a family evicted in the campaign. The post includes a screenshot from the WeChat public account of the grassroots volunteer group “warmbeijing,” which to support people who find themselves temporarily homeless in Beijing.
6. Liu Xiaobo’s Death
Posted on July 13, 2017 at 9:20 p.m.
Generated at least 1,702 reposts in 34 minutes
Translation: [crying face][crying face][crying face][candle]
Posted on July 13, 2017 at 10:13 a.m.
Generated at least 4,180 responses in 2 hours and 42 minutes
Translation: Best of today.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo died at the age of 61 on July 13 after he was denied permission to leave the country for treatment for late-stage liver cancer.
The death of the prominent human rights advocate prompted tributes worldwide. But in Mainland China, all official coverage of his death was flat, even cold, reminding readers he was convicted of crimes against the state, and online discussion was censored. Any sign of respectful commemoration, such as candle or crying-face emoticons, were scrubbed from Weibo. The censorship was so thorough that some netizens responded in sarcastic disbelief.
The post above is a screenshot from Douban, an online arts and culture forum, which simulated a conversation between an Internet user and a Chinese cybersecurity official: “Hello comrade, I’d like to apply to get online.” “Which site are you visiting?” “Sina Weibo.” “How many posts are you planning to publish?” “I guess two?” “About what?” “I am just gonna post the photos I took yesterday when I had my dinner.” “Sign here and register at the administrative department, then go home to wait for further notice. Next!”
7. Sacking of Head Table Tennis Coach Liu Guoliang
Posted June 23, 2017 at 8:01 p.m.
Generated at least 7,670 reposts in 3 hours and 36 minutes
Original: 6月23日晚，正在参加中国公开赛的国乒男队突然集体在微博集体发声：“我们无心恋战 只因想念您刘国梁！
Translation: On the evening of June 23, the national men’s table tennis team, which was then playing at the China Open in Chengdu, posted its views on Weibo: “We don’t feel like playing anymore because we miss you, Liu Guoliang!”
Posted June 24, 2017 at 06:17 a.m.
Generated at least 7,914 reposts in 4 hours and 30 minutes
Original: 【 刘国梁事件凸显权力的傲慢无礼 】 虽然我对中国体育的举国体制一直存有重大异议，但对刘国梁本人却一直怀有深深的敬意。在运动员生涯中，刘国梁一共获得43个世界冠军，是国内仅有的几个乒坛大满贯选手之一。担任教练员之后，刘国梁的成就更是有目共睹，并且赢得了整个世界乒坛的尊重和敬意。今年4月6日，刘国梁刚刚续任为期两年的中国乒乓球队总教练，仅仅一个多月，他就被明升暗降，被免去总教练职务转而担任有名无实的乒协副主席。离东京奥运会只有两年多，各国乒乓球运动员特别是日本女队的崛起对中国乒乓球队已经构成了严重威胁，虽然这对世界乒乓球运动来说是好事而不是坏事，但临阵换帅毕竟是军中大忌。争权夺利，殃及池鱼。刘国梁事件再次表明，没有约束的权力具有多大的负能量，在用祸水毁掉中国乒乓球队的同时，最后倒霉的一定是他们自已！国家体育总局与中国证监会何其相似乃尔，面对社会大众的反对声浪和强烈质疑，他们表现出的是同样的傲慢和无礼！
Translation: Liu Guoliang’s firing reflects the arrogance and indignity of the authorities. Though I have long opposed China’s state-run sports system, I have deep respect for Mr. Liu Guoliang. As an athlete, Liu won 43 world championships—he is one of a few grand slam winners in China. His achievements as the head coach of the China men’s team spoke for themselves, and he earned respect in the global table tennis community. On April 6, Liu renewed his contract for another two years. However, only a month later, Liu was dismissed and promoted (in name only) to the largely ceremonial position of Vice President of the Chinese Table Tennis Association. There are only two years left before the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. The rise of other table tennis players on other national teams, especially the Japanese women’s team, poses a threat to the Chinese team—though it may not be a bad thing for the sport globally. But a sudden leadership transition is always something to be avoided and puts us at a disadvantage. Inevitably, the struggle for power will have a negative effect on innocent people. The desire for power will eventually destroy what was built up over years. This is the danger of unchecked power. In addition to destroying China’s table tennis team, those responsible eventually will have to suffer the consequences themselves. The General Administration of Sport of China now looks like the China Securities Regulatory Commission. When faced with public opposition and strong suspicion, critiques, and doubts, both show arrogance and indignation.
China’s three top table tennis players, Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, and Xu Xin, pulled out of the China Open and made public statements on Weibo after the sudden removal of their head coach, Liu Guoliang. Liu’s firing was widely believed to be the work of Sports Minister Gou Zhongwen, an electrical engineer turned technocrat and former Vice Mayor of Beijing who had no background as an athlete and a pattern of trying to fix things that aren’t broken.
The first post was published by Qin Zhijian, a men’s team coach, who also did not show up at the games.
The General Administration of Sport denounced the players’ behavior as “a breach of professional ethics.”
Censors deleted statements of support of Liu in less than 24 hours, and the trio of top athletes posted an apology letter on behalf of the Chinese Table Tennis team. Liu also apologized on behalf of the three players two days later on Weibo.
8. 19th Communist Party Congress
Posted October 18, 2017 at 6:24 p.m.
Generated at least 10,827 reposts in 5 hours and 42 minutes
Translation: Indeed, I could never have imagined this . . . it’s hard to describe. My hands are swollen from clapping so hard, like this: http://t.cn/ROgK0p4 Play it yourself! It could be the new media product of the year.
Context: The picture shows a smartphone game “Excellent Speech: Clap for Xi Jinping” offered by Tencent during the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, held October 18-24, 2017. When the game starts, it first plays a clip of Xi’s address, then the players have several seconds to tap the screen as many times as possible to make a pair of hands on the screen clap. The background image is the Great Hall of the People, where each year 2,300 delegates to the Congress, infamously known as “rubber stamps,” clap mechanically at the speeches of the Party leader.
The game spread quickly among the 500 million users of Tencent’s WeChat, another of China’s most popular social media platforms. The game was only available during the Congress.
9. Sexual Assault at the Beijing Film Academy
Posted June 10, 2017 at 11:37 p.m.
Generated at least 51,959 reposts in 19 hours and 21 minutes
Original: #北电性侵事件# #北电学生举报教授#北电性侵门相关教授贪腐证据第三波，实锤！昨天有很多朋友提醒我所发证据中，关于宋靖利用职权为自己公司输送利益的证明不够明显。我现在手中就有纸质文件，证据非常充足，但牵扯的人太多，打击面过广，与我做人原则相违背，我就不发了。今天我只发几个图片实证，…
Translation: #BeijingFilmAcademySexualAssault# #BeijingFilmAcademyStudentReportingProfessor# This is the third round of corruption-related evidence about the professors who are involved in sexual assault at the Beijing Film Academy. Irrefutable! Yesterday, many friends noticed that from the evidence provided, the allegation against Song Jing of abusing her power to benefit her own company was not clear enough. I currently possess relevant hard copies of the documents. The evidence is sufficient evidence. But since it involves, and would implicate, too many people, I won’t post it all here, as that’s against my principles. But I will post several images as irrefutable evidence. . .
A Weibo account called “Beijing Film Academy Hou Liangping” posted the message above in support of a female student’s allegations that she was sexually assaulted by a professor’s father. The user profile suggests the person behind the account is a male student from the Beijing Film Academy (BFA). In a long post which was later deleted, he claimed that the BFA’s Dean of the Faculty of Photography, Song Jing, was corrupt and engaged in sexual relationships with students. The Weibo user’s username, “Hou Liangping,” is borrowed from a heroic character who fights against corruption in the popular Chinese TV show In the Name of the People.
The picture in the post is the profile page of BFA Dean Song’s company, showing cooperation between the company and the BFA. The author claimed it was evidence of Song’s abuse of power.
Before this post, the user called “Beijing Film Academy Hou Liangping” had written a few earlier posts about the evidence of sexual abuse at the BFA, posts which were then censored by Weibo. His posts raised an outcry among social media users in China over not only corruption but also the government’s strict control of public opinion.
10. Child Bride in Wushan
Posted March 10, 2017 at 12:43 p.m.
Generated at least 6,035 reposts in 4 hours and 21 minutes
马姑娘曾经说过，当年她从陈学生家中逃跑的时候，妇联主席因与陈学生的弟媳妇有亲戚关系而袒护陈学生，帮其控制【马 氵半 丰色】。
如今【马 氵半 丰色】被县政府派多人跟踪监视，连换洗梳整都极为不便——甚至，巫山县政府都已经同意的情况下，巫山县妇联主席却出面干涉，拒绝马姑娘的梳洗请求！！！
After reading what Ms. Ma describes, I am truly speechless. Ma once said that when she tried to escape from Chen Xuesheng, the Chairman of the Women’s Federation detained Ma, at Chen’s request, because they are related.
Now Ma has been tailed and monitored by the county government, which has caused huge inconvenience in her daily life. The Women’s Federation has turned down Ma’s request that she be allowed to bathe and change clothes—even the county government said yes to that.
Ha. . . The Women’s Federation, the county government, the rapist, and the Public Security Bureau are in this together, gaslighting the victim as they play Good Cop-Bad Cop!!!
Ma says she is on the verge of breaking down. You can only imagine what she will face after the issue cools down!!!
She always says she is grateful to those who pay attention to this. But her gratitude makes us feel sad and angry……
I can’t save her from evil. I can only spread what I have heard.
May God have eyes and bring these beasts to their own death!!
(This screenshot of Ma and her supporters’ group chat is part of an image that was attached to the original Weibo post. The complete screenshot of the chat that was included in the post is available here.)
Posted March 4, 2017 at 8:55 a.m.
Generated at least 11,920 reposts in 8 hours and 18 minutes
Original: 转发帮助巫山童养媳马姑娘！她原先求助的帖子被删了！这是别人帮她建群，她不得已发在群里的，求扩散！@豆瓣冷血才女 @新媒体女性 @殆知阁
Translation: Repost to help the child bride Ma! Her original post asking for help was deleted! This group is a group of people who want to help her. Ma posted this in the group when she was out of options. Please spread the news!
Posted March 4, 2017 at 7:56 a.m.
Generated at least 14,320 reposts in 4 hours and 43 minutes
Translation: Disappeared as expected……
For generations, girls from poor families have been sold as child brides once they were old enough to bear children, often becoming the second wives of wealthy men. Although such practices were banned by the 1957 Marriage Law, child brides still can be found in rural areas. Most modern day child brides are victims of criminal human trafficking rings.
In Wushan, a small county in Chongqing, Ma Panyan and her two sisters were sold to three men by their uncle, who was supposed to take care of the siblings after a sudden family tragedy: Ma’s mother killed her abusive husband and ran away after being spared jail by the courts when she was declared insane. The 12-year-old Ma was sold to Chen Xuesheng for 3,000 yuan and gave birth to her first child two years later. Ma and Chen’s marriage was registered without Ma being present.
After three failed attempts, Ma escaped from Chen at the age of 20 and decided to bring Chen and her uncle to justice. But she found herself under tight surveillance and her posts on Weibo were censored. Ma claimed in the post that Women’s Federation officials in Wushan were involved in monitoring her and preventing her from speaking to the media. The posts likely were scrubbed from Weibo for insinuating that these officials from the Women’s Federation could be tied to a cover-up of criminal human trafficking.
What Lies Ahead
Due to limited resources, Weiboscope identifies and reconstructs only a small portion of all messages censored from China’s Internet each year. It is our hope that our work offers a snapshot of the major social media discussions that were censored in China in 2017. In 2018, we will extend our coverage to censorship of the increasingly widely-used social media platform WeChat. One common question about China often asked by the media and by China observers is whether or not Beijing, feeling China’s status as a new global power, is tightening its control of the Chinese Internet. We hope that Weiboscope and our first WeChatscope can serve as a reliable barometer of censorship in China’s social media space.