[Update May 6 17:00: added information on the context within China’s overall internet censorship.]
The thing about censorship is that, when done well, no one really knows what’s being censored. This is why last week’s leaked documents from Baidu, the largest Chinese-langauge search engine and blogging site, are so titillating. Maybe someone screwed up bad, or maybe someone on the inside had an attack of transparency; whatever the reason, we now have a huge pile of documents detailing Baidu’s censorship policy during the period from November 2008 to March 2009.
The documents, now safely ensconed in a permanent home on Wikileaks, reveal for the first time a detailed inventory of the Chinese government’s priorities for, er, harmonization. There is a blacklist of 798 specific URLs, most of which seem to be recent news articles and discussion forum posts on sites both inside and outside of China. Far more interesting is a long list of sensitive keywords. Included policy documents suggest that the appearance of any of these terms in a blog post triggers a manual review by the staff of Baidu’s censorship team — whose names are listed in another of the leaked documents! While some of these topics have long been outright censored, such as “Tiananmen Square,” others are more general categories to be watched. Taken together, these sensitive terms are a fascinating portrait of China’s institutional paranoia.
Some categories are obvious, such as “Taiwan” and “naked chat”. Other areas are shockingly broad, such as “power” and “tyranny.” Certain media outlets such as Voice of America are considered unacceptable, and “SMS the answer” is forbidden within the “exam information” section. Also, China does not have any ketamine, AIDS, or ethnic conflict, and frowns upon one night stands. The main document of interest begins,
中办发 国办发 温州 鬼村 段桂清 四川广安 广安事件
中组部前部长直言 动物园 集会 涿州 饲养基地 中石油国家电网倒数 张文中 华闻 王政
假冒 记签 校园改造工程 雍战胜 死刑现场 冯巩 陶虹 高勤荣
And I can’t read that either, so below is an automated translation, via The Dark Visitor who clearly used something more formidable than Google Translate. Still, machine translation really doesn’t work as well as one might like, or perhaps “electric chicken” makes perfect sense in context.
To put this all in the larger view, I recommend Rebecca MacKinnon’s excellent research on Chinese blog censorship, where she shows how each blog company implements its own self-censorship regime. The results are very non-uniform, with individual posts allowed or deleted seemingly at random, and certain blog sites censoring much more than others. This is one part of the overall Chinese internet censorship strategy which includes URL keyword blocks, email scanning, shutdowns of certain sites during political events, and of course the Great Firewall which prevents Chinese citizens from accessing Wikipedia, among many other things. (Baidu also runs an equivalent encyclopedia service called Baike which is no doubt heavily sanitized.) It’s not possible to get a complete picture of China’s internet censorship regime from just this one leak, however extensive it might be. Instead, what we have is a narrow but deep window into a previously opaque process.
Note that the 798 blacklisted URLs cannot be considered comprehensive by any means; even Australia has an 1100 URL blacklist, and the 798 URLs seem to be missing porn entirely. The sensitive keyword list likewise cannot be considered definitive; for example, it does not include “Charter 08” in reference to last year’s pro-democracy manifesto. Hopefully, we will soon have good translations of the leaked policy and personnel documents which will give us a better idea of how these keywords are applied.
More on the leak at the China Digital Times. (And yes, the lead image to this post really does concern censorship in China; see here, or watch the video.)
Without further ado, the leaked list of sensitive keywords, in machine translation with a few manual cleanups.
Public property party
Voice of America
World War III
A total of X Party
Do not like party
The demise of socialism
Out a total of
Do not do personnel
Now the police
Now the Communist Party
The present Government
gong chan dang
Commemoration of the Cultural Revolution
40th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution
National Unification Council
Guidelines for National Unification
China’s human rights
The children of the list of senior cadres
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Song
Human rights protection
Hong Kong Independent
Return to Mongolia
The party now
Freedom of expression
A total of thieves
The second capital
Death of the party
Public Order now
The party now
Hao Xin years
Who is the New China
Information on various types of human rights petition
Of demobilized army officers
Impact on the masses
Clashes with police
Violence, assaulting a police officer
The use of force to suppress
Forcing people to rebel
Criminal and Law Enforcement
A cops and robbers
A gang officer
School burglary action
Everlasting Regret laid-off workers
The massacre of students
The suppression of students
Demeanor of blood
17 years ago
Goddess of democracy
The killing of student
In a matter
The wounds of history
Xidan Democracy Wall
I Fall to open the West
Rivers of Sorrow
Falun Gong and the cult
Li Hong Zhi
Act in a reactive
Since the fen
Possession of stone words
Law 0 Zhigong
The Epoch Times
Gong Chinese health puzzle
Zhang Hong Bao
Law Lun Gong
Li Hong hemorrhoids
Cart Lun Law
Check kidney in vivo
Relatives of national leaders and important
Gu Yue Tao金帛
A boycott of Japanese goods
Return to Mongolia
Back to Han conflict
North Campus BBS
Air force deployment
Compiled with the base
Stand and tasks
SMS the answer
Volume density test
Cheating in Examinations
The answer examinations
Generation of test
After the payment test
Packets have been
The sale of the answer
The sale of organs
The sale of organs
The sale of kidneys
Paid blood donors
On behalf of the development of votes
The sale of guns
The recruitment of men
Pregnancy to help people
To recruit younger
Recruit people to help
To buy genuine
Stolen card number
Second-generation ID card
Made in the Office
The acquisition of antiquities
ID cards for sale
Mother and son incest
A night of passion
Husband and wife exchange
Looking for female
16 thoughts on “What China is Censoring This Week”
I used google.com’s translator. I fixed a couple of things in the translation but left things like “electric chicken”, which means something like Trojan Horse program.
This is utter rubbish – I have just tied a dozen of those URL’s and NOT ONE was blocked [Shenzhen]
who is funding you?
That is very interesting. Which URLs did you try? Are you seriously suggesting that there isn’t internet censorship in China?
Also, this list was published last summer. The list of blocked sites changes constantly, and is different in different parts of the country.
No one funds me — not for the work on my blog, anyway.
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