Minitrue: No Tanks or Candles During Special “Network Control Period”

The following censorship instructions have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

Urgent! Network control notice—network control arrangements for 20:00 on June 2 to 08:00 on June 6

@Everyone, hello, we have received a notice from supervisors in Shenzhen and Xiamen, the specific requirements are as follows:

1. Customization function restrictions and content self-examination for 20:00 on June 3 to 20:00 on June 5 (network control period)

  • All games must shut down customization features for all users including [changes to] display names and avatars, chat, and so on. Newly registered accounts can use default settings for display names, avatars, in-game vocalizations (random display names, random avatars, default vocalizations, etc)
  • Forums and communities must bar users from changing avatars, display names, user profiles, etc. Other user-posted content must be individually inspected before publication; if this is not possible, these functions must be shut down.
  • Self-inspection and usage blocks for sensitive content: all game forums and communities must conduct self-examination for emoji packs and other material incorporating candles, tanks, “89,” “64,” or potentially component elements (numbers, gifts, pictographs, audiovisual material). If these are found, please block their use.

2. Content inspection filtering and emergency duty for 20:00 on June 2 to 08:00 on June 6 (strict examination duty period)

  • Content security platforms will coordinate to adjust strategy for strictly intercepting and attacking sensitive content
  • Those that have not already implemented content security measures must, outside the aforementioned network control period, strengthen checks on newly registered users’ display names, avatars, and user profiles; step up content monitoring; and increase the frequency of inspections of user-posted content such as chat messages, forum posts, etc.
  • During the strict examination duty period, all project teams are requested to make arrangements and contingency plans for staffing schedules. Throughout the Dragon Boat Festival holiday period, each shift must have at least two staff members constantly reachable by phone and able to respond to supervisory instructions or sudden incidents within 5-10 minutes.

3. Related announcements and compensation

  • External announcements: notices such as product announcements, emails, etc. [about the above changes and restrictions] may not include terms such as “supervisory requirements,” “sensitive period,” etc.: use strategic phrasing like “game function upgrades/maintenance/improvements.”
  • Reward/compensation distribution: Please refer to previous compensation [guidelines] for the January 30 network control [period]. (June 2, 2022) [Chinese]

These internal corporate guidelines direct handling of the extraordinary sensitivities surrounding the anniversary of the June 4th, 1989 crackdown, apparently based on directives received from city-level authorities. CDT has previously documented the ferocious annual barrage of censorship through other directives, translations, and compilations of censored keywords that refer to the anniversary through homophones, allusions, or other indirect means. Censorship of the topic has been so intense for so long that it has even started to undermine itself, with some younger content control workers reportedly unable to recognize its sensitivity.

The above instructions’ reference to “sudden incidents” echoes the official designation of túfāshìjiàn 突发事件, or “sudden incidents”: an umbrella term for emergencies such as accidents, natural disasters, and protests which are often met with short-term “stability maintenance” rather than examination of root causes.

This year, international attention lies particularly heavily on Hong Kong, where political tightening in the wake of successive waves of mass public protest in 2014 and 2019, and the subsequent passage of a wide-ranging National Security Law, has cast an increasingly heavy shadow over commemorations. Developments since last year’s anniversary include the removal of a famous memorial to the crackdown from the HKU campus.

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.

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