Archive for Censorship

Mi experiencia como Team Leader de compras vecinales

[This is a guest post by Conal Boyce]

[VHM:  watch as much or as little of this 24-minute video as you wish; the most pertinent portion runs from 2:17 to 3:40]

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Uncommon prosperity

Even those who are not China watchers will remember the savage satire directed against the pathetic River Crab (= Harmonious Society) and the Grass-Mud Horse (= *uck your mother"). 

There's always something the censors have to block on the Chinese internet.  It wouldn't be the Chinese internet if a large part of it were not being blocked.  If I were to list all the Language Log posts that document the expressions that have been censored by the PRC authorities, it would soon swell to over a hundred items.

For the year 2021, here are some of the favorite targets of the internet police:

Clubhouse

February 8, 2021

Social audio app Clubhouse was blocked around 7 p.m. on February 8 in response to a spirited discussion about Xinjiang that had happened the previous weekend. (See Darren Byler’s column about the offending chat room). In addition, Clubhouse had hosted discussions about Tibet and Taiwan. Some Chinese users noted that their mainland China phone numbers could not receive verification messages to register for new accounts.

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Melon eaters and censorship in the PRC

Because of the scandal surrounding the illicit, involuntary relationship between female tennis star, Peng Shuai 彭帅, and top CCP official, Zhang Gaoli 张高丽, which became a hot button issue around the world beginning about a month ago, the Chinese government went into overdrive to censor all trace of it from the internet (see here).  The issue was particularly sensitive and embarrassing to the Communist Party because it rekindled the Me Too / #MeToo / #Mǐtù 米兔 ("Rice Bunny") movement (which the government had only with great difficulty tamped down a few years ago), led to the cancellation of the lucrative Women's Tennis Association (WTA) tournaments in China, and is even threatening to cause a boycott of the upcoming winter Olymics, which would be utterly disastrous for the PRC.

The gross disparity between the absence of all mention of l'affaire Peng Shuai et Zhang Gaoli in China (indeed the disappearance of the star herself) and the raging indignation over it outside China led me to inquire of my friends in China what they were hearing about it sub / sotto voce.

All responses in this post are from Chinese citizens who must remain unidentified for fear of harsh government reprisals.

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"Bad" words

As part of their broad language policing, PRC authorities are cracking down on inappropriate monikers:

"No More ‘SissyGuy’ or ‘Douchebag1990’: Weibo Bans Usernames Containing ‘Bad’ Words:

Weibo users can clean up their usernames before December 8", Manye Koetse, What's on Weibo (12/1/21)

Weibo, which is China's version of Twitter, has a huge following and enormous influence, but, like everything on the Chinese internet, it is strictly censored and harshly controlled.  Now, in line with the recent announcement of the latest drastic language regulations, Weibo users must junk their naughty names.

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AI cat and mouse robot censorship war

Now it's getting interesting:

"China’s internet police losing man-versus-machine duel on social media"

Stephen Chen, SCMP (11/14/21)

    Hordes of bot accounts using clever dodging tactics are causing burnout among human censors, police investigative paper finds
    Authorities may respond by raising a counter-army of automated accounts or even an AI-driven public opinion leader

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Circumventing censorship in the PRC

A major scandal erupted this past week in the highest levels of the CCP political structure, when a female tennis star, Peng Shuai 彭帅, accused a top official, Zhang Gaoli 张高丽, of having an affair with her.  Zhang is now retired, but was a recent member of  the Politburo Standing Committee and former holder of many high, important positions.  He was Premier Li Keqiang's former right hand man (Vice Premier).

"Chinese tennis star’s sexual assault allegation against former top leader prompts online blackout", by Eva Dou and Alicia Chen, Washington Post (11/3/21)

In what is seen as a reassertion of the feminist #MeToo movement in China, after the government had tamped it down for several years, Peng launched her accusation of sexual assault and prolonged liaison on her Twitter-like Weibo account.  Government authorities quickly scrubbed her post from the web, but not before screen shots had been made of it and a massive flurry of netizen discussion ensued.

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Your Pinky Heart

Phenomenally viral song by the Malaysian hip-hop artist, Namewee, "It might Break Your Pinky Heart. Namewee 黃明志 Ft.Kimberley Chen 陳芳語【Fragile 玻璃心】@鬼才做音樂 2021 Ghosician" — premiered on 10/15/21, and it already has nearly 9,000,000 views:

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Hemorrhoids outbreak

Article by Stephanie Chiang in Taiwan News (9/2/21):

"Chinese censorship: Media creator substitutes ‘hemorrhoids outbreak’ for ‘plague’

Mobile game developers having to make concessions to appease Chinese censors"

Censorship in the PRC is going from the ridiculous to the pathetic.  We have just been studying the government's attacks on "girlie men" and the authorities are also assailing "entertainment that is too entertaining".  Here's the latest chapter in the CCP handbook dedicated to eradicating everything that is immoral and improper.

Players of the Chinese role-playing mobile game "Entwined Love Across Time" posted screenshots ridiculing in-game dialogue that showed characters discussing the aftermath of a “hemorrhoids outbreak,” UDN reported on Sunday (Aug. 29).

After the screenshots were posted to Weibo (China’s Twitter equivalent), a user claiming to be the creator of the game replied that because censors forbade any mention of the word “plague,” he had replaced the word with “hemorrhoids.” This resulted in a bizarre in-game conversation in the story-based game, in which a character recounts living through “hemorrhoids,” which taught him that “hemorrhoids are not to be feared, as human nature is much more fearsome than hemorrhoids.”

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Curated language

Like the previous post (7/7/21) on gender-inclusive French, it is difficult to refrain from quoting the bulk of this thought-provoking article by John McWhorter in The Atlantic (7/4/21): 

Even Trigger Warning Is Now Off Limits

The “Oppressive Language List” at Brandeis University could have come from countless other colleges, advocacy groups, or human-resources offices.

—–

Thirty years ago, someone taught me to say actor rather than actress and chairperson rather than chairman, to discourage our thinking of occupational performance as elementally distinct depending on sex. I understood. Language does not shape thought as much as is often supposed. But words can nudge concepts in certain directions if the connection between the word and the concept is clear enough; the compound of chair and the gender-neutral person hints that, for most purposes, the listener doesn’t need to know whether the individual running a meeting was male or female.

In the same vein, I heartily approve of the modern usage of they (Roberta is getting a haircut; they’ll be here in a little while). I also like the call to replace slave with enslaved person. Slave can indeed imply a certain essence, as if it were a status inherent to some people. Enslaved person points up that the slavery is an imposed condition. The distinction matters given how central, sensitive, and urgent the discussion of slavery is in today’s America.

But according to counsel from Brandeis University’s Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center, or PARC, considerate people must go further: Apparently, we must retire victim, survivor, trigger warning, and African-American too. We must do so, that is, if we seek to ignore some linguistic fundamentals while also engaging in distinctly callow sociological calisthenics. When we are to even “consider” avoiding the word prisoner (try person who was incarcerated) or walk-in (because not all people can walk) and the phrase everything going on right now (I’ll leave you to find out what’s wrong with that one), we are being preached to by people on a quest to change reality through the performative policing of manners.

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The difference between deformation and devoidness

Final panel of this New York Times article:  "What You Can No Longer Say in Hong Kong" (9/4/20), by Jin Wu and Elaine Yu:

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Chinese characters written in Greek letters

From an anonymous correspondent:

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GFHG, SDGM

Hong Kong opponents of PRC / CCP totalitarian rule can read the title of this post.  Many of them can also read this geometric typeface:

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Thought control to detect the misuse of language

[This is a guest post by Mark Metcalf]

Recently read a short story by Chinese sci-fi author Ma Boyong (translated by Ken Liu) entitled "City of Silence" (Jìjìng zhī chéng 寂静之城) — a tale about a highly dystopian future in ("not") China. The story was referenced in an article in Wired.

Haven't been able to find an English translation online, so I got the Kindle version in a compilation – Invisible Planets. A thought-provoking story that describes a State in which the government controls people's thoughts by monitoring all of their communications in order to detect the "misuse" of language. The following excerpts from the book explain how the process evolved. Very disturbing, with echoes from recent history that are even more disturbing.

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