Watch Your Language! (In China, They Really Do)

The International Herald Tribune’s Rendezvous blog writes about keyword filtering and netizen lingo in Chinese cyberspace, with examples from CDT’s Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon and the recent study from Carnegie Mellon University:

More than 16 percent of all messages in China get deleted, according to a study by the Language Technologies Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The survey, published in the online journal First Monday, analyzed 70 million messages sent last summer, mostly on Sina Weibo.

“Weibo users — whose numbers recently surpassed 300 million — realize the days of unfettered, anonymous criticism may be drawing to a close,” writes Andrew Jacobs, a colleague in the Beijing bureau of The New York Times. “Beginning on March 16, new government regulations will require real-name registration.”

In short, no more anonymity.

[…] The Carnegie Mellon team found “295 terms with a high probability of being censored.” China Digital Space has compiled its own impressive dictionary of political slang and terminology, along with etymologies and back stories.

So good luck searching for terms like Tibet, immolation, the Dalai Lama, Falun Gong, democracy movement, Sheng Xue (dissident writer), Ai Weiwei (outspoken artist), Liu Xiaobo (imprisoned Nobel laureate), June 4 (date of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989), and Playboy (the magazine).


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