Chinese Police Now Performing Door-To-Door Twitter Censorship

from the have-you-heard-the-good-news-about-shutting-the-fuck-up? dept

The Chinese government doesn't have much interest in utilizing social media companies' online portals to target content it doesn't like. And there's plenty of content the government doesn't like. Between the Great Firewall and its obsessive tracking of citizens through pervasive surveillance tech and "Citizen Scores," there's really not much left for American social media companies to do.

The data contained in social media company transparency reports appears to indicate the Chinese government is capable of censoring content without outside assistance. Only Google's shows a significant amount of requests from the Chinese government. Facebook hasn't seen anything in years. And Twitter's report sports a gaudy "N/A" when it comes to content takedown requests from the Chinese government.

If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

The 50-year-old software engineer was tapping away at his computer in November when state security officials filed into his office on mainland China.

They had an unusual - and nonnegotiable - request.

Delete these tweets, they said.

The agents handed over a printout of 60 posts the engineer had fired off to his 48,000 followers. The topics ranged from U.S.-China trade relations to the plight of underground Christians in his coastal province in southeast China.

When the engineer didn't comply after 24 hours, he discovered that someone had hacked into his Twitter account - @hesuoge - and deleted its entire history of 11,000 tweets.

Facebook and Twitter are banned in China, but that isn't stopping Chinese citizens from using these services. The crackdown on Twitter, however, does far more to silence dissent than targeting other American social media services. Twitter has been a key outlet in many authoritarian countries where internet censorship is the norm, and even though only a very small percentage of Chinese internet users utilize Twitter, it seems to pose more of a threat to the Chinese government than other platforms with hundreds of millions of users.

The best way to make a point about not angering your government is to make it in person. The article says more than 40 in-person visits involving demands for tweet deletion have been reported, which is likely only a very small percentage of the number that have actually taken place. And, as this report shows, compliance is appreciated but not necessary.

He Jiangbing, a financial commentator, said police came to his Beijing living room to warn about his tweets.

Days earlier, officials visited the Guangzhou home of Ye Du, a well-known writer and supporter of the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, to hand him a printout of 802 tweets he needed to delete, Ye said in an interview.

Meanwhile, all 30,000 tweets from the account of Wu Gan, an activist serving an eight-year prison sentence, were deleted in November, which suggested a government hack, said Yaxue Cao, a Washington-based activist.

And, lest we pretend this sort of behavior is confined to nations with long histories of oppressing their own people, UK police have recently ramped up their in-person visits to request removal of offending tweets. The high road shouldn't be ceded so quickly by countries claiming to be at the forefront of personal liberty, not when the low road is clogged with so many nations already.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 9:44am

    Considering the level of Middle East main stream news manufactured about Middle East in New York makes understanding anything concerning the the Middle East incomprehensible the question is is the West Coast attempting to equal or exceed that of manufactured news for Asia?

    As for this article the news may be false and relevant or true and of such small quantity as to be irrelevant. After all there are 1.4 billion people there is this true and applies to .0001% or is it false and applies to 100%?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 10:28am

      Re:

      The middle east is a mess, much of it our doing.
      Is this simply a NY story or is it true?

      Inquiring minds want to know.

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

      • icon
        Mason Wheeler (profile), 11 Jan 2019 @ 11:38am

        Re: Re:

        > The middle east is a mess, much of it our doing.

        Don't rush to take too much credit. The Middle East has been a mess for thousands of years. Ethnicities and dominant religions have changed greatly over time, but that region of the planet being one big continuous cesspool of violence has remained pretty constant throughout history.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 9:51am

    So China's taking tips from the UK on how to be more dystopian now?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 10:37am

    China is a conformist society. They don't view individual liberties the way we do.

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

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 11:06am

      Re:

      Not 100% sure, but didn't the phrase "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down" originate as a Chinese proverb?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 4:49pm

        Re: Re:

        Japanese, but then again underneath all the anime and tentacle porn, Japanese are another level of backwardly conservative and uptight...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 2:53pm

    Dear totalitarian countries: Nineteen Eighty-Four was written as a dire warning, not as a "how-to" manual.

    Anyone living in modern, free-speech appreciating countries need to realize it does not take long at all for "thought police" be suddenly fashionable. Protecting free-speech is a constant battle.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2019 @ 7:35am

    An opportunity

    I'd like to know how China is hacking these accounts. If they continue to be willing to hack them with such little provocation, someone could set a trap with heavy monitoring on all accounts/computers to see how they do it. There may be interesting zero-days, or more likely they're attacking the email account or bribing an insider.

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

  • identicon
    David, 11 Jan 2019 @ 8:01am

    https://twitter.com/hesuoge?lang=en

    This guy still has 11000 tweets. When were they deleted?

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


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