Chinese Microblog Service Introduces Five-Strike Program To Block 'Rumors' And 'Evil Teachings'

from the Whac-A-Mole dept

In a country where the mainstream media is tightly controlled, Chinese microblogs have provided an invaluable way for millions of people to find and share unofficial information. That's obviously problematic for the Chinese authorities, who have been gradually clamping down on what they term "rumors".

Things came to a head recently when posts about an alleged political coup in the country appeared on leading microblog services Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo, resulting in both of them being punished for failing to pull the rumors fast enough. Now Sina, whose microblog service passed the 300-million user mark recently, has instituted strict rules for users, presumably in an attempt to placate the Chinese government and head off future punishments.

Interestingly, it is bringing in a variant of the "three-strikes" system that has been so controversial in the West, as China Media Project explains:

According to the regulations, users logging more than 5 posts of "sensitive information" would be prevented from posting for 48 hours and have the relevant content deleted. Further, those users posting "sensitive content" with "malicious intent" would be prevented from posting for more than 48 hours and face the possibility of having their account terminated.
As The Next Web reports, "sensitive information" covers a wide range of subjects:
Users have the right to publish information, but may not publish any information that:

1. Opposes the basic principles established by the constitution
2. Harms the unity, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of the nation
3. Reveals national secrets, endangers national security, or threatens the the honor or interests of the nation
4. Incites ethnic hatred or ethnic discrimination, undermines ethnic unity, or harms ethnic traditions and customs
5. Promotes evil teachings and superstitions
6. Spreads rumors, disrupts social order, and destroys societal stability
7. Promotes illicit activity, gambling, violence, or calls for the committing of crimes
8. Calls for disruption of social order through illegal gatherings, formation of organizations, protests, demonstrations, mass gatherings and assemblies
9. Has other content which is forbidden by laws, administrative regulations and national regulations.
Users of China's microblogging services have proved surprisingly adept at avoiding previous attempts to censor their messages. For example, the blind Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng was variously referred to as "blind man", "embassy", and "going into the light" as Chinese authorities noticed and then blocked each coded reference in turn. The new regulations specifically forbid this kind of approach:
It is not permitted to use oblique expression or other methods to get around the aforementioned restrictions
However, this probably just means that microblog users will become even more "oblique" in their techniques to route around the new forms of censorship. Short of shutting down such services completely -- a move that would probably be dangerously unpopular now that so many people use them -- it's hard to see how the Chinese authorities can ever completely stamp out this kind of inventiveness.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jun 1st, 2012 @ 9:31am

    The end of religion?

    "4. Incites ethnic hatred or ethnic discrimination, undermines ethnic unity, or harms ethnic traditions and customs
    5. Promotes evil teachings and superstitions
    "
    I guess promoting the teachings of the Bible goes right into the rubbish bin!

     

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      TechnoMage (profile), Jun 1st, 2012 @ 11:46am

      Re: The end of religion?

      Actually, you were trying to make a joke... but in China religion is still illegal AFAIK, though they are supposedly cutting back on the number of cases of the state going after churches.

       

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    Ninja (profile), Jun 1st, 2012 @ 9:37am

    *Waves at the US*

    Keep trying, China is more advanced in this Police State thing ;)

     

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      Sam's Uncle, Jun 1st, 2012 @ 10:01am

      Re:

      China is more advanced in this Police State thing ;)

      I disagree.

      China's overt censorship of free speech is old-fashioned and ham-fisted. US censorship of free speech is far more modern, sophisticated, and covert.

      China is also less cold and callous about the murder of innocent foreign citizens than the US.

       

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        Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Jun 1st, 2012 @ 10:52am

        Re: Re:

        US censorship of free speech is far more modern, sophisticated, and covert.
        Oh yes, far more modern... Distinctly Modern and Completely Apposite in fact...

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2012 @ 9:40am

    Take notes people. In 10 years, this will be happening to us.



    Think I'm paranoid? Little over a decade ago, you would've punched anyone that tried to even touch any of your kids at an airport security checkpoint. Today, you sit quietly through the whole experience and even thank them for it. Because terrorism. Or something.

     

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    Robert P (profile), Jun 1st, 2012 @ 9:44am

    What's sad is that this sounds very much like something I'd expect a US senator/congressman to write. Just about all of these could be reworded to something we're hearing from our "leaders" right now.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2012 @ 9:47am

    However, this probably just means that microblog users will become even more "oblique" in their techniques to route around the new forms of censorship.


    And when the spy speak gets oblique enough, perfectly innocent people will start getting caught.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2012 @ 9:59am

    "Five-Strike Program"?

    Damn, the French and Kiwis only have three steps. Talk about out-despotism a despotism.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2012 @ 10:15am

      Re: "Five-Strike Program"?

      You have to see that, what China actually means with "five-strikes" is that you'll be hit five times with a blunt object for each time you break the law.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2012 @ 10:16am

    I think you have a typo in your headline. I believe it's a "five strokes" campaign. You cross the party line and you're up for a good caning.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2012 @ 10:18am

    1. Opposes the basic principles established by the constitution
    2. Harms the unity, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of the nation
    3. Reveals national secrets, endangers national security, or threatens the the honor or interests of the nation
    4. Incites ethnic hatred or ethnic discrimination, undermines ethnic unity, or harms ethnic traditions and customs
    5. Promotes evil teachings and superstitions
    6. Spreads rumors, disrupts social order, and destroys societal stability
    7. Promotes illicit activity, gambling, violence, or calls for the committing of crimes
    8. Calls for disruption of social order through illegal gatherings, formation of organizations, protests, demonstrations, mass gatherings and assemblies
    9. Has other content which is forbidden by laws, administrative regulations and national regulations.


    So, as long as WE dont feel like WEVE broken those rules then i guess were ok, its not like alot of those rules are gonna be subject to the the individual person reading them, otherwise how would we be able to establish WHOS views correctly represents the spirit of these rules

    Im just glad that everyone everywhere has the exact same thoughts, opionions and views as everyone else, at all the same time, could get messy otherwise

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2012 @ 10:33am

    with the way so-called democratic countries like USA, UK, France are behaving, (saying one thing - doing the opposite, condemning countries for stifling freedom of speech and privacy - doing the same) i just wonder how long it will be before similar regulations come into force in them? it has been said many times that sooner or later, telling a country off for doing/not doing something, then doing it yourself, will come back to haunt, with comments of dont preach at us unless practicing yourself!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2012 @ 11:09am

    America isn't a democracy

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2012 @ 11:43am

    A lot of accepted science was once called 'evil teachings', including the Earth orbiting the Sun. It was such an 'evil' teaching Galileo was convicted by the church for it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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