Chinese Embassy Gets Briefly Suspended From Twitter; Insists 'Free Speech Must Be Honored' On Platform Banned Across China

from the want-to-try-that-again? dept

Content moderation at scale is impossible to do well. By now we've established that pretty firmly. However, there's something deeply amusing to see that when the Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka was temporarily banned from Twitter over what Twitter later claimed was a "systematic mistake," that the embassy then chose to go on a little righteous rant about free speech needing to be honored.

The Embassy put out a press release more or less saying the same thing:

On 13th April, Twitter suspended the official account of the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka (@ChinaEmbSL), without informing any specific reason. The Embassy made solemn representation to Twitter twice, requesting the latter to clarify and correct their decision, to avoid any misunderstanding and random association in the public. In the early morning of 14th April, Twitter officially replied the Embassy for a "systematic mistake", apologized and unsuspended the Embassy's account.

The Embassy feels regretful to this "systematic mistake", and would like to reiterate that the "Freedom of Speech" must be honored, while not be misused to spread groundless, racial or hatred speech, nor be treated with "Double Standards".

At first I thought that the "regretful" feelings indicated an admission that the "systematic mistake" was on the part of the embassy, but it appears that the embassy means Twitter itself. As for the whole "freedom of speech must be honored bit," someone should remind the embassy that Twitter itself is banned throughout China.

However, if I'm reading this correctly, the Embassy is indicating to Twitter that if it merely makes "solemn representations" to the Chinese government, requesting that it "clarify and correct their decision to avoid any misunderstanding and random association in the public," why surely the Chinese government will end the ban on Twitter. Right?

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Filed Under: bans, china, embassy, free speech, social media, sri lanka
Companies: twitter


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2020 @ 12:44pm

    It's almost like they don't understand how free speech works.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2020 @ 12:54pm

      Re:

      Sure they do. All speech is free. It's just that some speech is more free than others.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2020 @ 1:55pm

      Re:

      Sure they do. "You are free to say what we want you to say"

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2020 @ 2:36pm

      Re:

      Or maybe one of their employees does, and will soon be fired for this post.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 21 Apr 2020 @ 11:56pm

      Re:

      "It's almost like they don't understand how free speech works."

      Of course they do. Speech which has been vetted by the relevant authority should be heard by everyone.

      That way inaccuracies, falsehoods, and the occasional inconvenient fact about the leadership of the nation gets sorted out first. No one wants to hear about those things anyway.

      The problem here is that Twitter lamentably suspended an account which WAS vetted by the relevant chinese authorities. No wonder they're pissed off.

      /s ...in case someone missed it.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Apr 2020 @ 1:07pm

    ... hypocrite said what?

    The Embassy feels regretful to this "systematic mistake", and would like to reiterate that the "Freedom of Speech" must be honored, while not be misused to spread groundless, racila or hatred speech, nor be treated with "Double Standards".

    Double standards like, oh I dunno, throwing a fit that you got temporarily suspended on a platform banned in your home country? Objecting that your access was temporarily removed from a platform that isn't allowed to those in your home country?

    Those kinds of 'double standards'?

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

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 21 Apr 2020 @ 1:52pm

    Can we nominate the statement from the Chinese Embassy for a Funniest Comment of the Week award?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2020 @ 2:01pm

    So, China, hypocrite much?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2020 @ 2:45pm

    Ah, but Mike, you're missing the important point here:

    while not be misused to spread groundless, racila or hatred speech

    Twitter is banned in China due to spreading groundless, racila or hatred speech.

    The embassy would be happy with being banned from Twitter if it were doing the same thing. What they're upset at is being banned without reason.

    The problem, of course, being: what speech is considered groundless?

    Followed by: what speech is considered racila?

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 21 Apr 2020 @ 2:57pm

    HOW many

    of those from China, living and representing China around the World, LOVE they are not in CHINA??

    Same reasoning that Many Muslims LEAVE those area's that have Groups enforcing, Obsolete ideals.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2020 @ 3:13pm

    Twitter probably needs to lock the account, seems pretty likely it's credentials have been compromised

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Godfree (profile), 21 Apr 2020 @ 4:25pm

    Banned, blocked, whatever

    Twitter itself is banned throughout China. Why?

    Oh, riiiiight. The 2009 Urumqi religious riot that killed over 200 civilians and injured thousands more was coordinated through Facebook and, when the Government asked Facebook to cooperate with the Police, Facebook refused and has been blocked ever since.

    The following year, on January 12, 2010 Google announced that it would no longer conform to China’s censorship laws, “We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all.”

    Twitter and Youtube, which took the same stance, were blocked.

    P.S. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter removed accounts and content opposing the illegal assassination of Iranian General Suleimani.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2020 @ 5:14pm

      Re: Banned, blocked, whatever

      Hmmm, I believe that's a 'strawman' you've got there (Facebooks' alleged bad behavior really doesn't logically lead directly to Twitter being blocked).

      I also: I guess you believe that if people hear an idea they will be instantly brainwashed and believe it (or at least that applies to some significant portion of the population). If you don't believe that I can't imagine how you justify blaming a communications medium for other peoples (alleged) bad behavior.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 21 Apr 2020 @ 6:58pm

      Hope the PRC got their 50 cents’ worth out of you.

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

      • identicon
        Glen, 21 Apr 2020 @ 8:54pm

        Re:

        Isn't it more about that Social Credit Score or whatever the hell it is?

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

        • icon
          Khym Chanur (profile), 21 Apr 2020 @ 9:30pm

          Re: Re:

          I'm sure Godfree will be happy to explain why the Social Credit System is a good thing and not at all something from straight out of a dystopian novel.

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

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 12:05am

            Re: Re: Re:

            "I'm sure Godfree will be happy to explain why the Social Credit System is a good thing and not at all something from straight out of a dystopian novel."

            Of course he will. He already had himself a good old-fashioned one-sided wordwall argument as to why the chinese are just happy to have the media run and controlled by the state.

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

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 5:06am

            Re: Re: Re:

            Given their posting history has simply been 'find article critical of china, post some blatantly obvious propaganda and then leave' I'm sure they will be happy to not do anything of the sort.

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

            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 5:58am

              Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "I'm sure they will be happy to not do anything of the sort."

              Depends. Do we have a pending article on the chinese Social Credit System our good "Godfree" can put a comment to where he explains how having a government-approved rating on your worth as a human being is a great thing?

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 5:35am

        Re:

        Spoiler: They did not.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 12:04am

      Re: Banned, blocked, whatever

      "Twitter itself is banned throughout China. Why?"

      Because too many people on twitter are discussing the ethnic cleansing of the Uighurs going on in Xinjiang?

      "...when the Government asked Facebook to cooperate with the Police, Facebook refused and has been blocked ever since. "

      That FB refused to provide the personal information of a hundred million non-chinese citizens to chinese authorities without being given a damn good reason isn't something most westerners would object to. Facebook certainly has issues in many ways but that, dear astroturfer, wasn't good value for the 50 cents I assume you're being paid to put out the government-approved public message from Beijing.

      Once again, since it appears we've gotten someone on this forum who actually sounds and acts like a bona fide 50-cent army astroturfer, I think you need to get your game out of the obvious old USSR-style boilerplate propaganda if you want to get anyone to read what you're being paid to write.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 4:24pm

      Re: Banned, blocked, whatever

      Hi "Godfree",

      Is there a reason you only seem to post blatant, laughably obvious Chinese party-line propaganda on Techdirt?

      Thanks,
      Mike

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 1:41am

        Re: Re: Banned, blocked, whatever

        "Is there a reason you only seem to post blatant, laughably obvious Chinese party-line propaganda on Techdirt?"

        Pending "Godfree"''s answer - which will no doubt, in the mutual interest of intellectually honest debate, be swiftly forthcoming cough I can only posit the hypothesis that he built himself that account for the exclusive use on TD.

        Now if I was a cynical and suspicious bastard I might expand that hypothesis and imply that TD's policy of being liberal with account creation proves to be low-hanging fruit for casually passing astroturfers.

        Since I'm neither cynical nor overly suspicious in mindset I'll just posit that "Godfree" must have a perfectly logical explanation as to why he keeps posting classical USSR-style propaganda at a time when China desperately wants to remove the egg from their outside face.

        (/s)

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

  • icon
    Jeroen Hellingman (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 1:47am

    Under any rational interpretation of the law, any new regulation at the same level as an old regulation that contradicts that old regulation should automatically supersede that old regulation. Only problem: Officers are not exactly known for doing the rational thing, and getting justice through the courts is either too costly or takes too long.

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

  • icon
    urza9814 (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 5:42am

    They may have a point...

    Ironic as it is, I think they may have a point here. Twitter regularly gives Trump a pass when he violates their terms; why shouldn't other governments get the same treatment?

    Can you imagine what they'd be saying if Twitter banned Trump, even by accident? Surely they have a way of preventing that, and if they're gonna do that it's only fair they apply it to other government officials as well...

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

    • icon
      Norahc (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 6:56am

      Re: They may have a point...

      Why should a government get a pass on a service they have banned in their country? If they want to complain about it the least they could do is allow that service to their citizens, otherwise it's just another case if the rules don't apply to the chosen few.

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

    • identicon
      Naughty Autie, 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:37am

      Re: They may have a point...

      Talking of Trump, I used to believe that his parents were Roman Catholics before I Googled them to find out. The guy is <i>such</i> a failed Withdrawal Method! :D

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

  • identicon
    Naughty Autie, 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:34am

    I no longer know which group's the most hypocritical: the Tories or the Chinese government!

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

  • identicon
    Avideogameplayer, 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:38am

    Would I be able to get a car using my Social Rating score in China?

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 1:47am

      Re:

      "Would I be able to get a car using my Social Rating score in China?"

      Depends. Has the local party hack had reason to consistently pump your social rating because of your devotion to Emperor Xi, or possibly because you haven't been such an unsocial cad as to fail to fill the pockets of said party hack with Yuan?

      Then you can get a loan for that car and a driver's license.

      Otherwise, you get nothing, and will be living in the slums while every honest citizen rightly shuns you for the unproductive parasite bereft of any social conscience that you are.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2020 @ 6:25pm

    Twitter is not banned in China. Twitter is blocked to serve content in China because it refused to stop criminal terrorist activities organizing, recreuiting and celebrating terror attacks and murders in broad dailylight on Twitters platform, because Twitter got under presssure of the US regime financing these "moderate freedom" terrorists trough proxies like NED.

    Now watch the NED drones shriek.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 28 Apr 2020 @ 9:29pm

      Re:

      Twitter is not banned in China. Twitter is blocked to serve content in China

      So... Twitter is banned in China. Got it.

      ...because it refused to stop criminal terrorist activities organizing, recreuiting and celebrating terror attacks and murders in broad dailylight on Twitters platform...

      How does one commit "murders in broad daylight on Twitters platform"?

      Send back Godfree. At least his arguments made sense. Enjoy your 50 cents.

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


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