Chinese social networks crack down on tricks used to circumvent censorship
Beijing, Jul 14 (EFE).- Chinese social media networks such as Sina Weibo and the Bilibili video service have announced campaigns against “wrongly written” Chinese characters, state media reported Thursday.
Weibo on Wednesday said it launched a campaign to “rectify posts that use wrongly written characters, including homophonous characters or restructured characters, to spread illegal and harmful information,” state news outlet Global Times said.
Chinese internet users often resort to homophones, very common in the Chinese language, to circumvent censorship.
For example, to refer to “harmony,” a common euphemism for “censorship,” the characters for “river crab” are used, with almost identical pronunciation.
Latin alphabet initials are also used to avoid the mention of sensitive words, for example, “government” becomes “ZF,” initials of “zheng” and “fu,” the two syllables that make up the word in Chinese.
This practice extends not only to politically sensitive content, but also to potentially fraudulent promotional content that uses homophones to camouflage references to keywords such as “credit card” or “loan” and to materials of a pornographic nature, which are prohibited in the country.
Weibo announced on Wednesday that its campaign aims to “create a clean network environment and maintain healthy online community,” a goal it aims to achieve “by improving keyword recognition and management software,” Global Times said.
The platform will also promote the use of “standard Chinese characters through incentives and public events.”
Bilibili said its move was intended to “implement the platform’s responsibility to help promote the standardization of Chinese characters and language and spread excellent Chinese traditional culture,” Global Times said.
The campaigns have in recent hours become one of the most popular topics on Weibo, with netizens reflecting varying opinions.
“I support the measure. Reading messages with these tricks is really cumbersome,” said one commenter, while another also showed support and denounced that some “commercial accounts use all kinds of tricks to confuse people.”
Others criticized the measure.
“They don’t let us use normal words and now they don’t let us use homophones either?” lamented one user.
China has the most internet users in the world, but at the same time exercises the some of the strictest controls over content – popular global services such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been blocked in the country for years. EFE