In China’s growing online community, comments on corrupt administration officials, ‘unwarranted’ mention of Chinese politics and even anti administration rumors are strictly prohibited. So much do the Chinese rulers wish to suppress such information that they are censored and even deleted such comments from Chinese social media without the users’ knowledge.
Research on China’s online community indicated glaring intrusions by the Chinese government into people’s lives. Conducted by Citizen Lab, from the University of Toronto, the researchers indicated that censorship on China’s online community occurred on a massive scale that included the mainland’s most popular texting app WeChat.
Censorship of mobile texts in the country is an open secret. What the report brought to light was the shocking extent to which it occurred. Out of 36,000 posts covered by the study between the months of June 2014 and March 2015, 4% had been censored. In addition, 100 public accounts on WeChat had been shut down for “spreading distorted historical information.”
The report’s author, Jason Ng, reported that keywords relating to corruption were five of the 50 most sensitive keywords. Chinese president Xi Jinping’s has been widely criticized for not doing enough to stem the country’s rampant corruption that is already threatening to bring down decades of economic progress. Rather than encouraging citizens to speak openly about the vice and even report suspicious transactions to authorities, the president prefers censorship of such “rumors”. According to him, such “sensitive” information needs to be kept off public forums, especially if it involves his own strong men such as Bo Xilai, who has been charged with multiple counts of corruption.
What is even more puzzling is how these censorships are carried out. According to Ng, it was impossible for an algorithm to pick up all keywords arithmetically, some needed human intervention to pick up. Ng said, "WeChat appears to tread in ambiguous waters [regarding censorship], forcing us to ask questions like: are those who object to a given post regular users, or are they employees of WeChat or the government?" If government agencies are involved, that would be the greatest act of intrusion into its citizens’ privacy and breach of their inherent rights to unrestricted interaction and unlimited expression.
In 2013, Beijing launched an “anti rumor campaign” that threatened all rumormongers with unprecedented gaol time. The administration then cracked down on religious movements such as the Falun Gong. By the time reports of social media censorship erupted, the citizens had had enough. Pro democracy protests escalated in the country’s capital all through the end of last year, threatening to tear apart one the world’s largest economies. President Xi Jinping’s administration’s intolerance to opposition is a far much greater threat to the country’s stability than are a handful of comments on mobile chat forums.