Leaked document reveals extensive censorship tactics used by Instagram-style app in China

The leaked document claims to showcase the deep web of censorship used to control content on China’s massive social media platform.

Content moderators of Xiaohongshu, an Instagram-like app with 200 million users, reportedly identified 564 new offensive nicknames and sensitive terms referring to President Xi Jinping and preemptively removed them from the platform.

According to a message from Chinese digital timesper VICEmoderators scoured the internet for anti-communist party memes, trying to unearth anything even remotely critical of the Chinese leader in order to devise strategies to stop sensitive content from spreading.

Business and government have a much closer relationship in China, which means that websites found to be critical of the authorities risk heavy sanctions.

Names like “Adolf Xitler,” “Winnie the Pooh,” “Mr. Shit Pete,” and occasional phrases like “personally in charge of the epidemic” and “general secretary comes to my house” were part of the extensive list of bans.

There is also complete list of banned songs, films and artworks in connection with the massacre on Tiananmen Square (now called June 4 in China).

National security experts have long warned that social media is a security risk due to the Chinese Community Party’s tight control, surveillance and censorship.

The file also shows “opinion diaries” recorded in May 2020, in which content moderators quickly flagged news events and messages that could attract unwanted attention. The censors were then able to manually identify the keywords that the website’s filter filtered out.

“The role of the diary is to suggest strategies for dealing with the sensitive moments of the day and to report on previous incidents. In 20 dailies, the censorship department reported a total of 596 opinion pieces, an average of almost 30 pieces per day,” the dossier says.

“The daily analysis and recommendations of key public opinion reflect the value orientation of the Xiaohongshu censorship system. The daily newspaper instructs censors which content is “negative”, “harmful” or “rumor” and ultimately reflects Xiaohongshu’s censorship standards.”

Xiaohongshu is also an e-commerce app, providing product reviews and recommendations to consumers.

The report also noted “emergency” methods used by the moderators.

In a document entitled “Public Opinion Monitoring and Processing Process and System”, the Xiaohongshu censors identified 10 types of “public opinion incidents”, including “social incidents that may cause political and social unrest and jeopardize national security” and “people’s concerns about about the Chinese Communist Party and government agencies.”

The process divides public opinion into two categories: censorship orders issued by the government, and “domestic public opinion”, which is Xiaohongshu’s active self-censorship.

Former content moderator of the Chinese social network Weibo, Eric Liu, said the advanced preemption technique was superior to anything he had ever seen.

“I never heard of such things when I worked at Weibo in 2011. We only took orders and deleted things accordingly, instead of making predictions based on sensitive topics,” Liu, now a Weibo analyst. Chinese digital timessaid.

Xiaohongshu is currently facing competition after Chinese TikTok owner ByteDance recently launched a social media app called Kesong.

But cases of social media censorship are nothing new in China.

On June 3, the stream of one of the most popular products in the country was interrupted due to an unusual

“Lipstick King” Austin Lee was in the middle of another live sales broadcast when the gimmick suffered a major setback, casting doubt on his fortune and reputation.

That evening, Lee was selling ice cream, which was considered a cult favorite by Australians Viennetta.

During the segment, a member of the crew handed Lee a dessert garnished with cookies and chocolate to resemble a military tank.

While at first glance it might have looked like nothing more than a decorated cake, it turned out that this stunt violated China’s special censorship system regarding the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

In 1989, students held democratic demonstrations in a square in Beijing starting on April 15 and ending on June 4, when it is estimated that troops opened fire and killed thousands of unarmed demonstrators.

To this day, the topic is very sensitive in China, as information about the massacre, erased from history books and posts, is regularly removed from the Internet as part of the so-called “Great Firewall” – China’s massive network of online censorship.

Experts believe the tank-shaped cake sparked a crackdown by authorities for violating censorship rules as it coincided with the 33rd anniversary of Tiananmen Square.

Many also speculate that the 30-year-old Li was unaware of his faux pas, given that Chinese born after the massacre know very little about it, as no records exist.

Originally published as Leaked document reveals extensive censorship tactics used by Instagram-style app in China