The existence of censors in China — especially on social media platforms such as Twitter-like microblogging service Sina Weibo — is already widely acknowledged. Consequently, there have been many research projects dedicated to finding out what sensitive words trigger the censorship process and get a post deleted.
However, ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom that focuses on investigative journalism, has launched an interactive feature that focuses instead on what kind of images get censored on Sina Weibo (hat/tip Sinocism).
The organization notes that as computers aren’t very good at understanding photographs and other images, taboo images tend to slip through the automated algorithms. Ultimately, human censors are the ones who delete them.
Since May this year, ProPublica has been tracking 100 Weibo accounts, noting which posts had images and returning to see if these images had been deleted. Out of 80,000 posts so far, at least 4,200 — more than five percent — got deleted by censors.
Political speeches — anything that portrays the government or the Communist Party in a negative light — formed the largest category of censored images. These are followed by images with huge chunks of text that elaborate on anti-government ideas, such as politically charged essays, petitions to release activists, and interview transcripts.
Following that, images of Chinese dissidents made up the third-largest category of images routinely deleted by censors.
➤ How to Get Censored on China’s Twitter [ProPublica]
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