The Chinese government doesn’t have much interest in utilizing social media companies’ online portals to target content it doesn’t like. And there’s plenty of content the government doesn’t like. Between the Great Firewall and its obsessive tracking of citizens through pervasive surveillance tech and “Citizen Scores,” there’s really not much left for American social media companies to do.
The data contained in social media company transparency reports appears to indicate the Chinese government is capable of censoring content without outside assistance. Only Google’s shows a significant amount of requests from the Chinese government. Facebook hasn’t seen anything in years. And Twitter’s report sports a gaudy “N/A” when it comes to content takedown requests from the Chinese government.
If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
The 50-year-old software engineer was tapping away at his computer in November when state security officials filed into his office on mainland China.
They had an unusual – and nonnegotiable – request.
Delete these tweets, they said.
The agents handed over a printout of 60 posts the engineer had fired off to his 48,000 followers. The topics ranged from U.S.-China trade relations to the plight of underground Christians in his coastal province in southeast China.
When the engineer didn’t comply after 24 hours, he discovered that someone had hacked into his Twitter account – @hesuoge – and deleted its entire history of 11,000 tweets.
Facebook and Twitter are banned in China, but that isn’t stopping Chinese citizens from using these services. The crackdown on Twitter, however, does far more to silence dissent than targeting other American social media services. Twitter has been a key outlet in many authoritarian countries where internet censorship is the norm, and even though only a very small percentage of Chinese internet users utilize Twitter, it seems to pose more of a threat to the Chinese government than other platforms with hundreds of millions of users.
The best way to make a point about not angering your government is to make it in person. The article says more than 40 in-person visits involving demands for tweet deletion have been reported, which is likely only a very small percentage of the number that have actually taken place. And, as this report shows, compliance is appreciated but not necessary.
He Jiangbing, a financial commentator, said police came to his Beijing living room to warn about his tweets.
Days earlier, officials visited the Guangzhou home of Ye Du, a well-known writer and supporter of the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, to hand him a printout of 802 tweets he needed to delete, Ye said in an interview.
Meanwhile, all 30,000 tweets from the account of Wu Gan, an activist serving an eight-year prison sentence, were deleted in November, which suggested a government hack, said Yaxue Cao, a Washington-based activist.
And, lest we pretend this sort of behavior is confined to nations with long histories of oppressing their own people, UK police have recently ramped up their in-person visits to request removal of offending tweets. The high road shouldn’t be ceded so quickly by countries claiming to be at the forefront of personal liberty, not when the low road is clogged with so many nations already.
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