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Researchers Put Numbers On China's Microblog Censorship 58

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the glorious-leader-john-boehner dept.
eldavojohn writes "One of China's main microblogging services used by 30% of all Chinese internet users is called Sina Weibo (weibo is the Chinese word for 'microblog') and something that is quite different from the West's twitter is, of course, the enforced censorship. Researchers at Rice University in Houston have estimated numbers for how censorship works and identifies the 'velocity of censorship' in China's microblogging censorship. Most of the posts are marked as 'permission denied' between the five minute and ten minute marks after posting. Their research shows that 'If an average censor can scan around 50 posts a minute, that would require some 1400 censors at any instant to handle the 70,000 posts pouring in. And if they work 8 hour shifts, that's a total of 4200 censors on the payroll each day.' The research indicates you would need a small army to meet stringent censorship policies when servicing China and to avoid being shutdown like Fanfou (another weibo). Keep in mind that this is not simply identifying keywords and blocking the post based on those words. The researchers noted that a phrase like 'Secretary of the Political and Legislative Committee' will result in you being unable to submit your post to Sina Weibo. So the research examines the speed of ex post facto censorship which presumably requires an employee or perhaps government employee to identify 'non-harmonious' posts based on their intrinsic content."
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Researchers Put Numbers On China's Microblog Censorship

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  • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @10:43AM (#43092305)

    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. --CS Lewis

    This seems appropriate to the situation, as a good many in that culture genuinely believe that the censorship performed is not only necessary, but beneficial to their society.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)

      a good many in that culture genuinely believe that the censorship performed is not only necessary, but beneficial to their society.

      It really is a shame that the citizens of a country should approve of their govt. If only we only we cold liberate them and make them a democracy. Freedom is the only way!

    • by athmanb (100367)

      How does this seem appropriate? Chinese oppression is pretty clearly aimed at perpetuating the party rule and guaranteeing their members cushy jobs and a steady income.

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        Chinese oppression is pretty clearly aimed at perpetuating the party rule and guaranteeing their members cushy jobs and a steady income.

        Ummm... a national economic growth rate of 7.5% p.a. under conditions of global economic crisis... that's a lot if steady income, I wonder what they are doing with it?

      • If you're a typical slashdotter 'fascism' is when Mum and Dad used to tell you to clean your room. If some party describing itself as Communist censors the internet and ships people off to re-education camps because they complained about corruption, re-education camps and so on that is 'appropriate'.

    • by dcollins (135727)

      It's funny to hear that from famed theologian C.S. Lewis, when it's pretty much a perfectly on-target description for God.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      This seems appropriate to the situation, as a good many in that culture genuinely believe that the censorship performed is not only necessary, but beneficial to their society.

      It also seems hilariously ironic coming from a Christian, given how often some variant of Christianity has been used as an excuse for oppression, and how a central tenet of the religion is its authority to declare what is "good", or godly.

      • I know it's a bit of a kneejerk reaction whenever someone associated with Theology is mentioned, but given some other statements in the same text, I think that you might be a bit too quick to attack him since he explicitly calls out the behavior you mention. For example:

        I believe in God, but I detest theocracy. For every Government consists of mere men and is, strictly viewed, a makeshift; if it adds to its commands 'Thus saith the Lord', it lies, and lies dangerously.

        and here:

        That is how tyrannies come in

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          I mean, he specifically calls it out as one of the very culprits of tyrrany, so I'm not sure how it's ironic at all.

          It's ironic because at the time when he wrote it, Christianity was not a "has been", nor is it today. Religion is still a pox upon politics. As a member of an oppressive religion whose influence he discounted by placing it in the past as an evil, he was part of the problem.

          • You are being unreasonable. You might as well state that anyone who doesnt simultaneously spit on the ground every time 'thing_you_hate' is mentioned is somehow condoning it.

            It's especially unreasonable since you complain about him suggesting something concluded in the past when 'has been' is the present perfect tense. In otherwords, it is used when describing a period of time which starts sometime in the past and continues to the present, with no implication that such a thing has stopped unless explicitl

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              It's especially unreasonable since you complain about him suggesting something concluded in the past when 'has been' is the present perfect tense.

              What's unreasonable is your lack of reading comprehension. I said it was ironic, not that it was bad, or that I was upset about it.

  • Sorry to sound rude but "Secretary of the Political and Legislative Committee"! I'm "Secretary of the Political and Legislative Committee" tired of this "Secretary of the Political and Legislative Committee" censorship!!!
    • It's probably a reference to this

      http://english.sina.com/china/2012/1119/528202.html [sina.com]

      Zhou Yongkang no longer holds the post as secretary of the Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs of the CPC Central Committee.

      Meng Jianzhu, Minister of Chinese Ministry of Public Security, has been appointed as the new secretary, CPC Central Committee announced Monday afternoon

      So You Yongkang got sacked but no one in China is allowed to speculate as to why.

      According to Wikipedia

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhou_Yongkang [wikipedia.org]

      In May 2012 the Financial Times reported that Zhou had relinquished the operational control of the party's Political and Legal Affairs Commission to Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu due to his support for former Chinese politician Bo Xilai, and had lost his right to select his successor when he retires from the Politburo Standing Committee in fall 2012. The New York Times later reported that Zhou's status remained unchanged.

      Bo Xilai was a Maoist and a very dangerous person who got denounced by Wen Jiabao (who as someone put it "seems quite nice for a Chicom [taipeitimes.com]")

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo_Xilai#Removal_from_posts [wikipedia.org]

      On 15 March, Bo was dismissed as Chongqing party chief and its related municipal posts, while temporarily retaining a seat on the Politburo. Due to the potentially destructive effects Bo's dismissal would have on party unity, party elders were consulted on the matter. The decision was reportedly made at a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee on 7 March, during which security tsar Zhou Yongkang cast a lone dissenting vote. On 14 March, Bo was reprimanded by Premier Wen Jiabao during the Premier's annual press conference. Wen called the achievements of Chongqing "significant," but the result of "multiple administrations," i.e., not just Bo himself. Wen also made numerous allusions to the damage wrought by the Cultural Revolution, an indirect rebuke of Bo's efforts to revive "red culture". Addressing high-level political changes by a Premier to an open public forum was unprecedented. Political observers believe that Wen's remarks and Bo's downfall represented a consensus within the central leadership that Bo not only needed to shoulder the responsibility for the Wang Lijun scandal, but also marked a significant victory for liberal reformers.

      On 10 April, Bo was suspended from the party's Central Committee and its Politburo, pending investigation for "serious disciplinary violations." Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was now a prime suspect in the inquiry into the death of British businessman Neil Heywood. The announcements, carrying criminal implications, likely marked the end of Bo's political career.

      On 28 September, the party's Politburo adopted a decision to expel him from the CPC. He was accused of major disciplinary violations and corruption charges during his tenure in Dalian, the Ministry of Commerce and Chongqing, including the Gu Kailai case. He was also accused of having "improper sexual relationships with a number of women."

      On 26 October, the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress expelled him, removing his final party or state position and setting the stage for his trial.

      On 4 November, Bo Xilai was formally kicked out of the Chinese Communist Party. There is speculation that he is going to be tried by the Supreme People's Court in original jurisdiction, the first time since the trial of the Gang of Four.

      Ha ha. It's like when the Daleks took Davros off to "stand trial for crimes against the

  • How do you prefer your censorship?
    Overt or covert?
    And the same could be asked of surveillance.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/82701103/Analyst-Desktop-Binder-REDACTED [scribd.com]

    Plomo o plata, I think journalism/blogs/social media are as censored in Russia, Europe and America as it is in China.
    The tactics might differ but the strategy is consistent.

    • by slashmydots (2189826) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:09AM (#43092589)
      What is with the constant America and Europe are evil scumbag overlords crap on slashdot? Come down off it you paranoid moron. The US censors like 1 thing and you go all Glen Beck and compare them to China as if it's the same caliber. Yeah, the US's free speech availability is the exact same as China. You're right. Ugh, keep dreaming, idiot.
      • by MRe_nl (306212)

        Where in my post did I use the terms evil, overlord or scumbag? Your lack of reading comprehension in no way entitles you to using the paranoid moron dreaming idiot idiom, but I shall attempt to refrain stooping to your level.

        Censorship and surveillance are tools. When used by our servants and representatives to enable and cover up secret police, secret laws, secret sentences, state-sponsored abductions, torture and assassinations I think we have every right to be concerned.

        It is probably hard for you to co

    • by Sporkinum (655143)

      Irony...
      "This Page Cannot Be Displayed

      Based on XXXXX Internet use policies, access to application Scribd of type Social Networking has been blocked."

  • "Keep in mind that this is not simply identifying keywords and blocking the post based on those words. The researchers noted that a phrase like 'Secretary of the Political and Legislative Committee' will result in you being unable to submit your post to Sina Weibo."

    Yeah, because computers can find keywords, but throw in a couple spaces, and then it's impossible.

    Seriously, there seems to be a great oversight among certain old-school folks that computers can do this kind of mass searching in support of oppres

    • Hey, thanks for calling me an "old-school folk" but I'll have you know that I have studied artificial intelligence both academically and professionally and -- always amusing -- is the delta between how far along people think we are with AI and where we really are with AI. I mean, people are talking like all you have to do is show Watson a problem set and then <insert automagication here> solutions abound! Your assertion that it's just "a couple spaces" thrown into the mix that's stopping us is laug
      • That's why it takes five to ten minutes?

        It takes 5-10 minutes because the automatic scanner sorts into three categories:

        1. Stuff that clearly violates the rules.
        2. Stuff that may violate the rules.
        3. Stuff that looks okay.

        So anything in (1) gets banned by the computer. (2) and (3) get posted, but (2) is flagged for a human to look at. The human censor queue is a few minutes long, thus the delay. There is no need for a human to look at everything.

        I have no first hand knowledge that it works this way, but it seems to me that this is the way a

  • by Sporkinum (655143) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:25AM (#43092779)

    Lenny Bruce
    “If you can't say "Fuck" you can't say, "Fuck the government.”

  • by mbone (558574) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:26AM (#43092785)

    (Besides the obvious political ones.)

    In the US, this would be viewed as something requiring A.I. research. In China, another 5,000 or even 10,000 people get an "iron rice-bowl."
    Foxcon could handle this with their staff on break.

  • Seems like a small number of new party employees when you have a population of 1.3 billion.

There are running jobs. Why don't you go chase them?

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