Showing posts tagged censorship

<List(s) of Chinese keywords for censorship testing and sensitive content collection>

Last week, a researcher during The Citizen Lab’s annual Connaught Summer Institute workshop raised an interesting problem. She wanted to test for censorship on a Chinese online service, and she had somewhat limited resources and time. What keywords should she use for her test?

In theory, this is a solved problem, what with the numerous lists of censored and sensitive Chinese keywords available on the web, including those shared by this site. However, sometimes the keyword list may be too broad for one’s taste, or may simply have too many keywords to efficiently use. And plus, what if I only want to test the most sensitive of the keywords, e.g., Falun Gong, June 4, Xi Jinping, and so on? For those not experienced in Chinese or Internet censorship, this can be a daunting task to winnow down already existing lists to something more usable.

Thus, a few of us sat down at the workshop and we collected 8 known Chinese keywords lists (see below) and aggregated them together in a single, easily share-able and sortable file, which we’ve posted to Github. The CSV files contain not just the keywords, but all sorts of other info like translations and tags (though not all of them; it’s an ongoing project which you are welcome to contribute to since it’s an open-source project).

As of Aug 4, there are 8,087 sensitive keywords collected from 8 different lists. To get a sense of what data is included in these CSV files, you can view a spreadsheet of these 8,087 keywords sorted by the number of lists they appear on.

Creator Tested on/found from # of keywords Year Method + source
The Citizen Lab Sina UC 1,818 2013 reverse engineered from the client; more analysis here; download link
The Citizen Lab Tom-Skype 2,574 2013 reverse engineered from the client; more analysis here; download link
The Citizen Lab LINE 673 2014 reverse engineered from the client; more analysis here; download link
Jason Q. Ng (Blocked on Weibo) Sina Weibo 839 2013 running Wikipedia China article titles through Sina Weibo search; more analysis and book
Xia Chu Great Firewall 669 2014 HTTP request scans of Wikipedia China articles to see if they’d trigger GFW block; more analysis here; download link (removed duplicates and keywords related to meta and user pages)
China Digital Times Sina Weibo 2,448 ongoing crowdsourced testing of suspected sensitive keywords on Sina Weibo; more analysis on CDT and in CDT’s Grass Mud Horse Lexicon e-book; download link
GreatFire.org Wikipedia 488 2013 testing to see if Wikipedia pages are available in China; more info; download link
Google/ATGFW.org Google/Great Firewall 456 2012 ATGFW.org and GreatFire.org reverse engineered the keywords Google was using to warn users of censorship while using their service in China; download link

To follow future changes to these lists, you can follow the Github repository. You are encouraged to adapt and update these lists as you see fit, however please do credit back to the Github repo if you do. Hopefully this is helpful to researchers who are searching for sensitive content in Chinese or testing for network interference.



<64 Tiananmen-related words blocked today (June 4, 2014)>

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     (photo credit: CND.org?)

Today, on the 25th anniversary of troops being ordered into Tiananmen Square to clear student demonstrators, I tested several hundred June 4-related keywords on Weibo. I used the same set of keywords that I tested last year at The Citizen Lab, and I found relatively similar levels of censorship this year. Also like last year, the enhanced restrictions on keyword searches were apparently implemented specifically for the anniversary: for instance, 坦克 (tank) and 六四 (6-4, i.e., June 4) were free to be searched as recently as May 11.

A short article over at WSJ provides some more context and lists those 64 keywords that I identified as being blocked from searching on Weibo today. Of the keywords I tested, there were nine that were unblocked last year but have been added to the blacklist this year, including 八九 (89), 维多利亚公园 (Victoria Park, the site of the commemorative vigil in Hong Kong), and VIIV (roman numerals for June 4).

After the jump are the 64 keywords that are currently blocked from searching on Weibo (though some will no doubt be unblocked once this sensitive period passes):

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<Comments and takeaways from Xia Chu’s “Complete GFW Rulebook for Wikipedia”>

Note: Update to “64-byte search string limitation indicates Weibo and GFW” section added Jan 11

If you are interested in Chinese Internet censorship, I highly recommend you flip through Xia Chu’s latest update to his* research project “Complete GFW Rulebook for Wikipedia.” This latest revision of a document originally released last October, it identifies a massive list of actual trigger words (which Xia calls “rules” because they are often attached to specific conditions) which cause a Chinese Internet user’s connection to specific sites like Wikipedia to be disrupted by the Great Firewall (GFW). Not only that, it also includes a list of over 3,600 websites that he has currently confirmed to be unreachable from within China due to the GFW. The conclusions in the paper don’t necessarily upend anything that we thought about the GFW, but if you want a peek behind the curtain of how the GFW works (big takeaway: IT’S REALLY HAPHAZARD), this is as close as we can currently get.

The methodology behind Xia’s testing is sound and the breadth is among the most comprehensive attempts to document the Great Firewall’s blacklisted keywords—though Xia notes his debt to Jed Crandall et al’s ConceptDoppler paper, GreatFire.org, and others, including arrested civil rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong, for inspiring him. The paper is mostly jargon-free, and the testing process used is transparent and not at all ultra-sophisticated (a compliment!); an amateur coder like myself could replicate everything that Xia has done in the paper. The paper is pretty self-explanatory and there’s not much commentary for me to add, but below are a few notes I’ll make including a description of a similar tool I’ve developed for identifying sensitive keywords in Chinese news articles as well as how there are curious coincidences between how Sina Weibo and the GFW censor.

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<Looking back on 2013: Five Blocked on Weibo posts I particularly liked from last year>

2013 has personally been an incredibly fun year. I finished grad school, my book was published, and I started working for this neat research lab. Chinese Weibo users though, especially prominent ones, had a particularly rougher time, with increased harassment and censorship by authorities inducing an unfortunate chill on discussion of sensitive topics on the site. Here’s hoping the next year brings a relaxation of such policies: I couldn’t be happier if I had nothing to write about on this blog.

So before we move on to 2014, a look back at five Blocked on Weibo keywords and posts that I particularly enjoyed uncovering and writing about in the past year:

1) Jan 23: 宪法法院 (constitutional court) is blocked during the Southern Weekend censorship controversy.

2) Mar 9: Weibo censors delete post of masked Mao portrait criticizing Beijing air pollution.

3) Jun 4: “The Flower of Freedom” (自由花) is a Cantonese song written by Hong Kong lyricist Thomas Chow to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tienanmen crackdown.

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我沒有敵人 ("I Have No Enemies" / wǒ méiyǒu dírén) is a speech written by jailed dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Liu was arrested in December 2008 just before the release of Charter 08, a document he co-authored calling for various political and legal reforms in China. He was formally charged in June 2009 on charges of “suspicion of inciting subversion of state power” and was tried on December 23, 2009. He was convicted and began serving an 11-year sentence four years ago, today.

Why it is blocked: "I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement" was a prepared speech Liu read to the court during his trial. However, after 14 minutes, the judge cut him off, saying Liu had used up his allotted time. The full speech was published and widely circulated online in Chinese in January 2010 and gained even more prominence when it was read aloud in English by actress Liv Ullmann during the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony (video: part 1 | part 2).

Though Liu decries the supposed crimes for which he has committed and maintains his innocence, it is not an angry rant. Liu primarily takes on a martyr’s role: sticking to his ideals, accepting his fate as a victim, thanking his prosecutors and judges for their decency during the trial, and noting with optimism that change is on the horizon. Liu then addresses his wife, Liu Xia:

Throughout all these years that I have lived without freedom, our love was full of bitterness imposed by outside circumstances, but as I savor its aftertaste, it remains boundless. I am serving my sentence in a tangible prison, while you wait in the intangible prison of the heart. Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body, allowing me to always keep peace, openness, and brightness in my heart, and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning. My love for you, on the other hand, is so full of remorse and regret that it at times makes me stagger under its weight. I am an insensate stone in the wilderness, whipped by fierce wind and torrential rain, so cold that no one dares touch me. But my love is solid and sharp, capable of piercing through any obstacle. Even if I were crushed into powder, I would still use my ashes to embrace you.

The speech is part-love letter, part-reflection on Liu’s past, part-manifesto. I’ll cite a few notable passages, but it should be read in full (HRIC translation | David Kelly translation):

When I think about it, my most dramatic experiences after June Fourth have been, surprisingly, associated with courts: My two opportunities to address the public have both been provided by trial sessions at the Beijing Municipal Intermediate People’s Court, once in January 1991, and again today. Although the crimes I have been charged with on the two occasions are different in name, their real substance is basically the same - both are speech crimes. […]

But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by the convictions I expressed in my “June Second Hunger Strike Declaration” twenty years ago ‑ I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies. Although there is no way I can accept your monitoring, arrests, indictments, and verdicts, I respect your professions and your integrity, including those of the two prosecutors, Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing, who are now bringing charges against me on behalf of the prosecution. During interrogation on December 3, I could sense your respect and your good faith.

Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as i look upon our nation’s development and social change, to counter the regime’s hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love. […]

I hope that I will be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech. Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth. In order to exercise the right to freedom of speech conferred by the Constitution, one should fulfill the social responsibility of a Chinese citizen. There is nothing criminal in anything I have done. [But] if charges are brought against me because of this, I have no complaints. Thank you, everyone.



<Infographic showing Weibo censorship being linked to offline events in Bo Xilai scandal>

In the infographic below, we have collected data from a number of sources, including GreatFire.org, China Digital Times, Blocked on Weibo, and Twitter users to chart the moments when Bo’s name became blocked or unblocked on Weibo. The speculation is that the authorities blocked his name when online conversations got too unpredictable to control and unblocked it when they sought to give netizens the space to criticize Bo. We have lined up those moments with what was taking place offline at the same time, presenting a connection between how real-life political turmoil was often reflected in changes in censorship online. Click to launch the interactive infographic.

Concept, Research, and Authorship: JASON Q. NG
Design: JANE GOWAN and ANDREW HILTS
Development: ANDREW HILTS

Source: The Citizen Lab



<Update: The Chinese keywords on messaging app LINE’s “bad words” list and why they are “bad”>

Last week, the research lab I pitch in at published the first in a series of posts investigating censorship and privacy concerns in three chat applications: WeChat, LINE, and KakaoTalk. These instant messaging programs, which often replace text messages on smartphones, are expanding rapidly across the world. While WeChat has garnered most of the foreign press, LINE, a Japanese subsidiary of the Korean Internet giant Naver, is no pushover: it has over 200 million registered users, generated $130 million in revenue last year, and is poised for a $10 billion market cap value when it goes public next year.

I’ve already written a number of blog posts translating and describing some of the 150 words that were initially revealed to be on LINE’s “bad words” list. This list, uncovered by Twitter users @hirakujira, was thought to be a precursor to future censorship by the LINE application, but The Citizen Lab’s recent reports uncovered a second set of 370 keywords which do trigger censorship—but only for users who have registered with a Chinese phone number. Thus, LINE users in China would receive error messages when sending messages that contain any of these keywords and asterisked-out text when receiving them. 

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In addition to the series of 21 blog posts I did on the first chunk of the original list of uncovered “bad words” in LINE, I have translated the remainder of the 150 keywords on the original list as well as translated the majority of the 370 keywords on the recently decrypted list in the following spreadsheets:

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李正源李刚 (Li Zhengyuan; Li Gang / Lǐ Zhèngyuán Lǐ Gāng) are the names of two unrelated people named Li who were both involved in scandals involving drunk driving, censorship, and attempted abuses of power. In addition to the similarities in names and other parallels, both cases showed the growing power of social media as a tool for correcting injustices.

Li Zhengyuan, the son of Taiyuan’s city’s police chief Li Yali, beat up a traffic cop in Oct 2012. Zhengyuan had been pulled over by a traffic cop (交警 / jiāojǐng), Xia Kun (夏坤) for drunk driving, at which point he assaulted the officer in front of multiple eyewitnesses, who posted evidence of the beating online. He was not arrested and instead was escorted home by other police officers. A cover-up followed, with surveillance footage deleted and a blackout on reporting of the incident. Zhengyuan’s father, Li Yali, was eventually found to be responsible for the cover-up in addition to selling positions on the police force, and was removed from his post in Dec 2012.

Li Gang is the name of a deputy police chief whose son, Li Qiming, was involved in a hit-and-run. In Oct 2010, Qiming drunkenly drove into and killed a rollerblading college student on Hebei University’s campus grounds. He drove away and when security officers caught up to them, he sought to escape punishment by declaring “My father is Li Gang!”—assuming this gave him immunity. After this was reported, outraged internet users tracked down Qiming, turning him and his brazen declaration into a meme and symbol of injustice in Chinese society. Authorities tried—and failed—to control the increasing outrage by censoring the event, and in the end Qiming was sentenced to six years in prison.

In a break from our usual series of highlighting words blocked from searching on Weibo, for the next two days I’ll be looking more deeply at the keywords on chat messenger app LINE’s “bad words” list. For more about this series, see this introductory post.



网络封锁 (Internet block / wǎngluò fēngsuǒ) refers to the restrictions on access to sensitive websites that Chinese netizens face. Unlike the majority of the 150 words on LINE’s “bad words” list, this one doesn’t refer to any specific current event is the type of word you’d expect to find on a censorship list (because discussing the censorship system, along with pornography and protests, is almost guaranteed to be censored).

In a break from our usual series of highlighting words blocked from searching on Weibo, for the next two days I’ll be looking more deeply at the keywords on chat messenger app LINE’s “bad words” list. For more about this series, see this introductory post.



<The Chinese keywords on messaging app LINE’s “bad words” list and why they are “bad”>

For an updated summary of the Citizen Lab’s excellent research into censorship on LINE to which I contributed, see this Nov 21, 2013 post.

Back in May, Twitter user @hirakujira was poking around in the code for Lianwo, the Chinese version of the popular mobile chat app LINE, when he noticed a curious line: “<key>warning.badWords</key>” followed by a string that read in Chinese: “Your message contains sensitive words, please adjust and send again.” Hirakujira subsequently identified the application files which contain these so-called “bad words” and posted them. The Next Web and Tech in Asia reported on how even though LINE (which is a Japanese spin-off of Naver, a Korean company) wasn’t yet actively censoring messages sent through its Chinese-branded app, the inclusion of such files indicated they had built in such a capability into the program—a forward-thinking move for any foreign content provider/distributor that hopes to succeed in China.

What I hope to do in the next few days is to take a closer look at the first roughly 40 of the 150 words that Hirakujira posted, translating and explaining the significance of those words with respect to current Chinese politics. Some are quite obvious, but others are quite obscure. By examining the words, we may hope to get a sense of what LINE thinks is worth censoring in order to appease their Chinese regulators. So for the next few days, consider this site rebranded as “Blocked on LINE (maybe in the future).”

The twenty-one posts (links will be added as the posts go up):

  1. 浙江签单哥Zhejiang’s receipt-signing Brother
  2. 警察杜平 / Police Dupin; 宣恩杀人现场 / Xuanen murder scene
  3. 叶迎春内衣 / Ye Yingchun underwear; 叶迎春 / Ye Yingchun
  4. 孙国相拆迁 / Sun Guoxiang demolition
  5. 中央领导内幕 / Central leadership insider
  6. 盘锦开枪 / Panjin shot; 四学者建言 / Four scholars suggestions; 
  7. 盘锦二表哥姜伟华Panjin, Second Watch Brother: Jiang Weihua; 姜伟华名表 / Jiang Weihua namebrand watches; 江诗丹顿 表叔 / Vacheron Constantin uncle
  8. 只身挡坦克 / Tanks block alone
  9. 爆料不孝女Expose: unfilial daughter; 爆料朱熹后人 竟是政协委员 / Expose: Zhu Xi’s descendants, suddenly CPPCC committee members
  10. 人大附中择校费杨东平Renmin High School, school choice fees; Yang Dongping
  11. 奥数叫而不停 / Complaints about Math Olympiad have not ceased
  12. 帝都 实行宵禁Imperial Capital implements night curfew
  13. 11月5日至15日 出租车禁行Nov 5 to 15 rental cars banned; 表叔 陈应春 / Uncle Chen Yingchun
  14. 江泽民被控制Jiang Zemin has been controlled; 江系军委被撤 / Jiang withdraws from Military Commission
  15. 张蓓莉200万耳环Zhang Peili 2 million RMB earrings; 温家 戴梦得 / Wen [Jiabao] Diamond; 温家宝 27亿 / Wen Jiabao 2.7 billion [USD]; 影帝温家 / Actor Wen Jiabao; 温家 资产700亿 / Wen Jiabao assets 70 billion
  16. 网络封锁 / Internet blockade
  17. 维族 砍人Uyghurs stab people
  18. 和田 暴乱 / Hotan rebellion
  19. 万鄂湘亚视 / Wan Exiang, Asia Television Limited
  20. 李正源李刚Li Zhengyuan, Li Gang; 交警夏坤 / Traffic cop Xia Kun
  21. 64屠城June 4 massacre


<Brief thoughts on Reuters article interviewing Weibo censors>

1. Retuers interviewed four censors who worked at Sina Weibo: “At Sina Weibo’s censorship hub, China’s Little Brothers cleanse online chatter. Some choice quotes:

  • "People are often torn when they start, but later they go numb and just do the job," said one former censor, who left because he felt the career prospects were poor. "One thing I can tell you is that we are worked very hard and paid very little."
  •  ”Our job prevents Weibo from being shut down and that gives people a big platform to speak from. It’s not an ideally free one, but it still lets people vent,” said a second former censor.
  • They said women shunned the work because of the night shifts and constant exposure to offensive material.

2. Can we have a whole book of this? My appetite has only been whetted. Some day maybe there’ll be a Chinese remake of The Lives of Others, but with a Weibo censor instead of a Stasi one. (It might be hopelessly boring though if it’s anything like what the article makes their lives out to be.)

3. The number of censors cited in the article (“40 censors work in 12-hour shifts” and “100 people worked non-stop for 24 hours” during intense periods) fits with the theory that much of the censorship is computer assisted. Without using algorithms to flag posts, Zhu et al’s paper (The Velocity of Censorship) estimated that you’d need 4,200 censors to to manually read every new post on Weibo, which would be inefficient. But is this Tianjin office the only such facility Sina Weibo has, or is it just one of many? Article doesn’t make that clear.

4. ”The most frequently deleted posts are the political ones, especially those criticising the government…” said one censor. This is interested in light of Gary King and co’s argument that the primary cause for deletion of posts online is the material’s potential for collective action—meaning whether there might be actual demonstrations of protests stemming from the post. Their argument (I’m oversimplifying of course) based on the data they’ve collected is that you can criticize the authorities as much as want—so long as you don’t call on others to do something together. They might get a pass because their first research paper (How Censorship in China Allows Government Criticism but Silences Collective Expression) doesn’t cover Weibo, but their new paper does (A Randomized Experimental Study of Censorship in China). So either King’s conclusions really don’t apply to Weibo or this one censor doesn’t really have a good sense of what his team is actually censoring. Though then again, “political” posts doesn’t exclude such posts from also being calls for collective action, but there are vast numbers of critical, anti-gov posts that don’t call for such action. My gut is that the King conclusion may not apply well to Weibo or is perhaps an overreach, but as far as folks can tell, their data seems pretty irrefutable (would love to get my hands on the second paper’s dataset). 

5. For the most part, the details revealed about how the censorship works mostly gibes with the research out there (high five researchers!). For instance, Zhu et al estimate of how efficient censors are (can read 50 posts per minute) is exactly what the censors report (3000 posts per hour).

6. Nitpick: Weibo has 500 million registered accounts, not users. 500 million users sounds really impressive until you realize most of them are zombies. Better metric to use is over 50 million daily users, which is definitely a lot, but still not Facebook-level, which reports close to 700 million daily active users.



<Interactive charts showing changes in Weibo keyword censorship (Jun - Aug 2013)>

Thanks to the excellent work being done by researchers and journalists at China Digital Times, GreatFire.org, and many others, there has never been more information about what is being censored online in China. However, what is less discussed and written about are instances when the censors withdraw keywords or topics from their censorship watchlists.

Read more about what data is represented (and misrepresented!) in these charts in my Citizen Lab post: Visualizing Changes in Censorship: Summarizing two months of Sina Weibo keyword monitoring with two interactive chartsIf for some reason the charts don’t load (either because of rate limiting by Google or other reasons), the JavaScript code used to create the charts can be viewed here and here. You can then either host the file on your own site to interact with the charts or copy/paste it into the Google Code playground.

Unique China Chats words blocked or unblocked on Sina Weibo (click on the part of the bar and then “See all keywords” that fall into that category on that test date):

Unique China Chats keywords with changes in block staus:



<480 keywords blocked from searching on Weibo as of Jun 29, 2013>

During the past month, I’ve been working as a summer research fellow at The Citizen Lab in Toronto. It’s been great to not only have time to dedicate to updating this blog and pushing forward collaborative projects with researchers I’ve been fortunate enough to meet over the past two years, but also to pitch in with all the amazing work being done here at this one-of-a-kind lab. Among the projects I’ve been helping out with is one pertaining to the list of censorship and surveillance keywords in the Chinese chat clients TOM-Skype and Sina UC, which the team decrypted then analyzed in collaboration with Jed Crandall and Jeff Knockel at the University of New Mexico. 

Of course, my first desire was to take the keywords they extracted and to test them on Weibo. Below are 480 unique keywords which were blocked from searching on Sina Weibo as of June 29. I’ve written more about the other censorship games I’ve detected in this post over at The Citizen Lab’s blog. Among the things I discuss are the overlap of keywords between different Internet services in China as well as what drastic changes in the number of search results for keywords might mean.

A full spreadsheet of the data mentioned in the report can be viewed in this Google Fusion Table or downloaded in .csv format for further analysis by all you researchers reading along at home. I look forward to sharing other relevant work my colleagues and I get done at the Lab during the rest of the summer.



The removal of “June 4” from the list of blocked terms—an area of much ridicule for Weibo both in Western media and among Chinese netizens, many of whom evade the censors by using alternative coded slang to stand in for sensitive keywords—may be a sign that Weibo has become more comfortable trusting its human censors to manually delete sensitive posts quickly and effectively. They’re slowly moving away from the crutch of the keyword block, which while certainly effective at preventing the spread of sensitive information, is also at times overly broad and not responsive enough to more precise needs. … What is and is not off-limits has now become slightly harder to determine—another step in making censorship invisible and all-pervasive.
My article “Weibo Keyword Un-Blocking Is Not a Victory Against Censorship” on Tea Leaf Nation, cross-posted on The Atlantic website

<Which Chinese politicians get blocked (from criticism) on Weibo>

A momentary break from the usual posts: first, a thank you to Tumblr for featuring the blog in its Tumblr Radar. Glad to reach out to new folks and hope you all continue to find this interesting. Second, I’ll be presenting a draft paper I wrote with Pierre Landry at the Chinese Internet Research Conference held this year at the Oxford Internet Institute. I’m flying out tomorrow and look forward to meeting all the attendees. Below is the abstract of the paper and a link to the pdf. After the jump, find out which 19 CCP politicians are still explicitly blocked on Weibo (they’re probably not the ones you expect).

The Political Hierarchy of Censorship: An Analysis of Keyword Blocking of CCP Officials’ Names on Sina Weibo before and after the 2012 National Congress (S)election

This paper seeks to use the dynamics of Internet censorship by China’s most important social media site, Sina Weibo, to achieve a better understanding of the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in November 2012. To this end, searches were performed daily on the names of all 2,270 delegates to the Party Congress on Sina Weibo for five weeks before and after the event. Data recorded included information on the number of results reported and whether the keywords were reported to be blocked or not. As a complement to work by researchers including Gary King, David Bamman, King-wa Fu, and Tao Zhu into Chinese social media censorship, our study concludes that Sina Weibo actively manipulated and filtered the search results of Communist Party delegates—particularly higher-ranked and incumbent officials—during the observation period, with an apparent decrease in search blocks after the Party Congress. This study offers evidence that the Party, through proxies like Sina Weibo, proactively attempts to shape public opinion online, just as they do in traditional media. The decrease in search blocks perhaps indicates that the Party is still seeking to find a balance between utilizing the Internet as a check on officials and suppressing social media to prevent dissent; or perhaps it is a short-term effect due to a new wave of leaders taking office.

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