Blog looks to list all the banned words on Sina Weibo

We all know China is strict when it comes to online censorship. We also know that it’s getting stricter, particularly on the country’s various microblogs, known as weibos.

What you might not know is precisely what terms are banned on them. One blog is looking to change that, by listing every single term not allowed on Sina Weibo — China’s biggest microblog.

Blockedonweibo is a tumblr that exhaustively lists the banned terms on Sina Weibo and explains why they are banned.

Some of the banned terms include fairly obvious ones such as government agencies and “nude photograph”.

Other terms, though, are slightly more obscure. Sina Weibo users are, for instance, banned from mentioning American rock band Hoobastank.

The group’s banning, however, has nothing to do with taste or the Chinese government considering them politically dangerous.

According to Blockedonweibo, “the blocked keyword is “stank” and Hoobastank is merely caught inadvertently”.

In the tumblr’s about section, its creator explains that its purpose is “to get a sense of where the boundaries of Chinese censorship and self-censorship lie”.

The blog’s creator, who calls himself Jason Q. Ng, says it is “just a fun little challenge for me. I thought folks might be curious to know what is considered sensitive in China”.

Ng claims he “systematically used 700 000 Chinese Wikipedia titles (which includes both traditional and simplified titles as well as nicknames and colloquial terms) as my search terms and tested them on Weibo with a computer script”.

“It was a several month process, but I’ve since discovered roughly a thousand unique blocked words,” he adds.

At the moment, he says he is in the analysis stage but “may have to call on others with free computers to help me perform a re-test of the entire list”.

Sina Weibo has around 300-million users. This popularity, however, meant that Chinese authorities have had a hard time keeping the same tight level of control they’ve become accustomed to. This means the microblogging platforms have become a key tool for protesting political corruption and poor disaster management by state authorities.

In the wake of this kind of political action, authorities have only sought to crack down even further on those deemed to be spreading what they call false rumours on the microblogging platforms.

There have even been reports of people being hunted down and arrested after their posts were spotted online.



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