Can’t Buy Me Trump – Is Trump Merchandise Being Censored on Taobao?

While some Chinese businesses are doing good business selling Trump-related merchandise, e-commerce giant Taobao blocked virtually all Trump products on its desktop version on election day, What’s on Weibo found.

The victory of Trump in the US elections is the talk of the day on Chinese social media. On e-commerce platform Taobao, Trump-related merchandise is ubiquitous, with merchants selling anything from Trump masks, to Trump toilet paper or sweatshirts. But on November 9, all Trump-related products led to an error message on the Taobao desktop version, making them unavailable for purchase.

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When searching for Trump merchandise on China’s e-commerce Taobao, there are many options available. A Trump “Make America Great Again” t-shirt is sold for 59 RMB (±8.6 US$), while a Trump mask is priced at 66 RMB (±9.7 US$). Some Trump toilet paper was sold for 228 RMB (±33 US$).

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toilet

But while searching for any other non-Trump-related product on Taobao does not give any problems, all Trump products gave an ‘error’ message upon clicking them in the late evening and night of November 9/10 (Beijing time).

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The error page upon clicking any Trump merchandise on Taobao.

Various English-language media outlets reported earlier that China’s censors issued advance orders to media outlets to restrict coverage of the U.S. democratic contest.

According to South China Morning Post, Chinese websites, news outlets and TV networks were told not to provide any live coverage or broadcasts of the election, and to avoid “excessive” reporting of the story. It is yet unclear if Taobao’s Trump merchandise was under similar censorship regulations.

Earlier today, a Weibo blogger posted that a factory in Zhejiang producing rubber Trump masks, as the one featured in this article, had “crazy orders” with many bulk buyers, mostly from outside China. The blogger also stated that Trump-related merchandise on e-commerce giant Alibaba had 11 pages of products, while Hillary-related products only counted 3 pages.

For now, those who want to buy a Trump mask on Taobao are out of luck – virtually all results for purchasing are blocked. On the mobile version of the e-commerce platform, some might still be able to buy a Trump mask, if they just cannot get enough of the most talked-about person of the day.

Update November 10: not just Trump merchandise, but also Hillary Clinton masks and other products have been blocked on Taobao on the election day.

Update November 10: the blockages seem to have cleared up now, so it might have been an election-day-only measurement. Who ever wants to buy a Trump mask on Taobao can do so here.

– By Manya Koetse
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Additional research by China blogger @edsander.

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Author

About the author: Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

1 comments

One day later the products are available again, making this a strange case.

Yesterday all of the ‘fun’ products like masks and T-shirts were not available, while serious Trump products like his books were. This pointed at a very selective temporary censoring of products.

It also doesn’t seem like they wanted to screen out the more offensive products since the Trump toilet paper is also available again.

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