There's little known, much unknown about internet censorship by China

DelhiWritten By: Harshil MehtaUpdated: Jun 17, 2020, 02:24 PM IST

A cross-party group of MPs and peers has that the information commissioner look into whether TikTok, which is controlled by China, is treating personal information in a way that violates UK law Photograph:(Reuters)

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Serious complaints are emerging that Beijing is censoring the content which is remotely against the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC). 

China is changing the strategic equations amid COVID-19 pandemic crisis. There are serious allegations against China that it hid the information about coronavirus, trying to mislead the world. China has also, recently, shown aggression against India at Galwan valley and both sides faced casualties in a 'violent face-off'.

China is also facing a backlash on social media. Serious complaints are emerging on the social media platforms that they are censoring the content which is remotely against the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC). 

The digital world gives voice to millions whose voices were not typically heard. Social media platforms are expected to handle the diverse viewpoints with tolerance but is it really happening? 

Popular websites, including Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, are banned in mainland China. Only official accounts of ambassadors or mouthpiece of Chinese governments have access to social media websites. So, no information from mainland China can come to us. We can see only those things which China wants us to show and the same goes for Chinese citizens - they can only see the things which their government wants to reach them.

But the issue is much deeper than it seems. China is intimidating social media companies, who have offices in China, to remove content which is not suitable to the CPC. 

Recently, popular Indian comedian and mimicry artist Saloni Gaur, who is popularly known as Nazma Aapa, had posted the video in which she made jokes on China. “So @TikToK_IN has removed my last video which had jokes on China, jaisa desh, vaisi app. Kuchh bolne ki freedom hi nahi hai,” she tweeted this later. There are similar instances in the US of America where TikTok has locked the accounts of users who had criticised China or took jibe at them. 

Last year, The Guardian had accessed the documents, according to which, China had instructed TikTok, Chinese-owned popular social media application, to remove videos featuring Tiananmen square and Tibetan freedom. These contents were categorised as a violation of “hate speech and religion”. In addition, employees of the TikTok US of America were reportedly pressurised to remove “culturally problematic” videos which might offend the ruling party of China. 

TikTok is managed by the Beijing-based company, hence, this can be expected but Chinese censorships are taking control over other platforms too. 

For example, Google. On the play store, TikTok was rated 1.2 with approx 29 million reviews but after a few days, the rating was up to 4.4 and play store removed almost 9 million reviews. There was no clarification from the company over this manipulation. 

In India, a movement was building up to remove the China-owned apps and for that purpose, one developer had made the application “Remove China Apps” which was available on the play store and was trending in top-free applications, but that application was deleted from the play store. However, after much outrage from the Indian side, it has been reinstated now. 

On June 11, Zoom wrote a long blogpost and accepted that China has intimidated them to remove the content of pro-democracy Chinese activists based in the US.

Not only these, there are complaints that YouTube is also automatically censoring comments which features the word “communist bandit” and “50-cent party” in reference to the Communist Party of China. Comments featuring these two words were getting removed in just 15 seconds. 

This internet censorship by China is really worrying. This is happening at a large scale which goes unresolved, and hence, we only see things which China wants us to show.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)