CMU study analyzes what China deletes

Salt is one word bitter to censors
March 8, 2012 12:01 am

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When the reviews were complete, they found that 212,583 out of more than 1.3 million checked messages had been deleted, or more than 16 percent.

They also found 54 percent of checked messages sent from Tibet had been deleted and messages featuring "sensitive" political terms were highly likely to be deleted.

Although the political sensitivity of many terms, such as iodized salt, depended on a particular situation, the team was able to narrow down a list of 295 terms and names with a high probability of being censored. About 33,363 total messages were found to include at least one sensitive term and 5,811 of those, 17.4 percent, had been deleted.

The study was published in the March issue of the peer-reviewed online journal First Monday.

Considering other blocks China has imposed on Internet content through the Golden Shield Project, an Internet surveillance and censorship system also known as the Great Firewall of China, Mr. Bamman said the government has succeeded in its overall mission of preventing citizens from using the Internet to sway political discourse.

"What they hope to do is to try to prevent massive organizations of people and problems they saw in the Middle East over the years through social media. By preventing people from discussing certain things in China, they have a way to effectively suppress that," he said.

However, others argue that China's online community is hungry for more information and looking for ways to beat the system, despite being part of a society that has industrialized censorship.

Paris-based social media research company Synthesio's 2011 report, "Social Media and Censorship in China," quotes an anonymous Chinese tech veteran and blogger who says the government employs hordes of citizens to moderate sites for content that could fit criteria for the chopping block.

Dubbed the "50 Cent Army" or "50 Cent Party" for the price of each deleted post, the blogger said workers use automated keyword filtering systems as well as their own judgment when monitoring message boards, specific users or when seeking out posts on specific topics.

First Published 2012-03-07 23:36:10

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