Censorship and deletion practices in Chinese social media

  • David Bamman Carnegie Mellon University
  • Brendan O'Connor Carnegie Mellon University
  • Noah Smith Carnegie Mellon University
Keywords: Internet censorship, Microblogs, China

Abstract

With Twitter and Facebook blocked in China, the stream of information from Chinese domestic social media provides a case study of social media behavior under the influence of active censorship. While much work has looked at efforts to prevent access to information in China (including IP blocking of foreign Web sites or search engine filtering), we present here the first large–scale analysis of political content censorship in social media, i.e., the active deletion of messages published by individuals.

In a statistical analysis of 56 million messages (212,583 of which have been deleted out of 1.3 million checked, more than 16 percent) from the domestic Chinese microblog site Sina Weibo, and 11 million Chinese–language messages from Twitter, we uncover a set a politically sensitive terms whose presence in a message leads to anomalously higher rates of deletion. We also note that the rate of message deletion is not uniform throughout the country, with messages originating in the outlying provinces of Tibet and Qinghai exhibiting much higher deletion rates than those from eastern areas like Beijing.

Author Biographies

David Bamman, Carnegie Mellon University
David Bamman is a PhD student at the Language Technologies Institute in the School of Computer Science at CMU.
Brendan O'Connor, Carnegie Mellon University
Brendan O?Connor is a PhD candidate in the Machine Learning Department, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.
Noah Smith, Carnegie Mellon University
Noah A. Smith is the Finmeccanica Associate Professor in the Language Technologies Institute and Machine Learning Department, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.
Published
2012-03-04
How to Cite
Bamman, D., O’Connor, B., & Smith, N. (2012). Censorship and deletion practices in Chinese social media. First Monday, 17(3). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v17i3.3943