08 March 2012 by Paul Marks
The way the Chinese government censors and deletes politically-sensitive terms online has been revealed for the first time.
As expected, the communists are hypersensitive to criticism of the state - but also to people slating the so-called ‘Great Firewall’, the network blocking technology that prevents Chinese people browsing the internet freely.
The US study also shows Beijing’s censorship machine works in real time - and can adapt quickly to emerging issues. It’s also location-dependent, being far more active, when required, in dissident regions.
David Bamman, a computer scientist and linguist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, got the idea for the research last summer when he noticed how quickly false rumours of the death of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin disappeared from China’s Twitter equivalent Sina Weibo.
“I went to check back on some of those messages and it really shocked me to discover that around 70 per cent of them had been deleted,” Bamman told New Scientist. So with colleagues Noah Smith and Brendan O’Connor he decided to study the censorship mechanism more closely.
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