READING TIME: 4 MINUTES, 1 SECOND
Several countries around Europe celebrate freedom this month, as it has been exactly seventy years since the end of WWII. With the commemoration of war in the past and recurring terrorist attacks in the present, press freedom and freedom of speech have become the focus of debate, with some arguing that “you’re either for free speech or for censorship”. Over 50 organisations called on governments this month to protect freedom of expression on World Press Freedom Day.
On the other side of the scale, there is North Korea and, a little closer to the West, China. Although modern-day China allows considerable freedom of speech, censorship remains tight. China’s social media platforms, such as Sina Weibo or Tencent’s Weixin, have given Chinese netizens more freedom and opportunities to express their opinion on various topics. Nevertheless, online censorship is more alive than ever. Approximately 12% of all ‘weibos’ (‘micro-blogs’ or ‘tweets’) are filtered by online censors, and China’s 642-something-million Internet users are posting less because of it.
“The centralized control of information is scary.”
Combating the Great Firewall of China, Free Weibo was launched in 2012. Free Weibo is a search engine that allows users to look for search topics that are blocked on Sina Weibo. It gathers data both directly from Sina Weibo and from WeiboScope, a project by the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong. “I think the centralized control of information is scary,” one of the anonymous cyberactivists of Free Weibo told TechinAsia in the year it was launched: “The more freedom of speech, the better”. Free Weibo does not only raise awareness for online censorship, it is also a rich source of information for researchers, journalists and curious netizens who want to know more about what is blocked on Weibo. Free Weibo is not the first platform to reveal Weibo’s censored content; Blocked on Weibo also documents what is not found on China’s most important social media site.
Ever since the launch of Weibo in 2009, China’s social media watchers have continuously noted its see-saw play between freedom of expression and censorship. With each new technology, from the more public Weibo to relatively private Weixin, netizens find novel ways to express their thoughts and ideas, and the leadership has to decide whether or not (and how) to counter these new developments. China’s recent ban on wordplay is a telling example. This law, that prohibits internet slang and the playful adaptation of Chinese proverbs, supposedly was implemented to help children learn proper use of language. But adapted Chinese proverbs and slang are also used in all kinds of (online) communication, and putting a ban on them enables authorities to incriminate people on the basis of ‘creative use of language’.
Free Weibo provides an overview of hot blocked content and topics on its homepage. Recent censored topics include Xu Chunhe, the man that was shot to death by a policeman in Northeast China on May 2, or the student protests on Tiananmen in 1989 – its anniversary is coming up on June 6th, a time when online censorship becomes extra tight. Not all topics are politically sensitive; pictures that expose nipples are removed as well – in that perspective, Sina Weibo and Facebook or Instagram have the same rules on nudity, although the latter are arguably even stricter on so-called decency guidelines.
It almost goes without saying that the website Free Weibo has been blocked in China. Even so, the website ensures that censored topics are revealed and read by netizens all over the world. The site was nominated for the RNW Digital Activism Award in 2014.
“Who are you to tell me that I should be happy with what I have?”
In Cyber-Nationalism in China (2012), Ying Jiang challenges Western media portrayals of censorship in China, arguing that China’s Internet environment and economic growth has created many opportunities, and that “the majority of present-day Chinese people tend to be satisfied with the existing more relaxed, though still limited, freedom of expression” (63). One of the anonymous co-founders of Free Weibo does not agree: “(..) I don’t share your view (..)”, the cyberactivist says: “(..) that Chinese are ‘happy with the status quo’. Who are you or who is anybody else to tell me that I should be happy with what I have? It’s not enough that I can make stupid jokes on social media and not get censored.” Regardless of whether or not millions of Chinese netizens are satisfied with China’s modern online environment and the opportunities/limitations it offers, Free Weibo’s founders are determined to fight for freedom of speech, and celebrate a free Weibo. They still have a long road ahead. As one of the co-founders writes: “When I want to talk about how pollution is killing my kids on my microblog, I get a knock on my door. I don’t think that’s right.”
©2015 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cybersecurity Experts Warn: Flicking the V-Sign in Photos Could Give Away Your Fingerprint Data
V-sign selfie pictures could disclose personal information about your fingerprints, security experts warn.
The 2019 China Cybersecurity Week was held in Shanghai this week, and made it to the top trending topics on Sina Weibo today.
The topic attracting the attention of millions of Chinese web users is not China’s cybersecurity in general, but one that was discussed during the event, namely the potential privacy risks in making a V-sign on photos.
Chinese internet security experts at the conference warned that people are unaware that they could be giving away personal data information about their fingerprints when sharing photos of themselves making a peace sign.
If the side of the fingertips is facing the camera, and if there is not a lot of space in between the camera and the hand, it would potentially be possible to gather fingerprint data using photo enlargement tools and AI techniques.
The deputy director of the Shanghai Information Security Industry Association stated that photos displaying a fingertop-facing V-sign taken within 1,5 meter of the camera could potentially disclose 100% of one’s fingerprint information, China Press reports.
Criminals could reconstruct fingerprint patterns of other people and abuse them in various means – basically wherever fingerprint information is used to confirm people’s identities (e.g. biometric door locks or fingerprint payment scanning).
Besides not disclosing fingerprint information in photos posted online, experts also warn people not to leave fingerprint information at machines without confirming their purpose and legality.
Fingerprint scanning is used for a multitude of purposes in China. Foreigners who arrived in China since 2017 will also be familiar with the policy of collecting foreign passport holders’ fingerprints upon their arrival in the PRC.
On Chinese social media, the topic “Making a V-Sign Could Leak Your Fingerprint Data” is one of the biggest being discussed today. On Weibo, the hashtag has gathered 200 million views at time of writing (#拍照比剪刀手会泄露指纹信息#).
Some commenters advise people on social media to make peace signs with the nail side of the fingers facing the camera. (That gesture, however, is deemed an offensive gesture in some nations.)
The V-sign is often used as a rather non-symbolic or cute gesture across in East Asia.
Although in many Western countries, the symbol is mostly known as the victory sign (“V for Victory”) as used during World War II, it entered mainstream popular culture in Japan since the 1960s and spread to other Asian countries from there.
This Time article explains how the gesture appeared in Japanese manga in the late 1960s, one of them titled V is the Sign (Sain wa ‘V’ / サインはV).
Amid the concerned Weibo users, some are not worried: “It’s ok,” one commenter writes: “Using a Beauty App smoothes out my skin anyway.”
There are also many commenters who are confused about the news, wondering what advanced photo camera quality and AI technique might implicate for future privacy risks concerning face recognition data and iris scanning software (“Should we also close our eyes?”).
Others offer a different solution to the unexpected V-sign issue: “Just flip the middle finger instead.”
The images used in the featured image on this page come from 追星娱乐说.
Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.
©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at email@example.com
“Taobao Life”: This Feature Shows How Much Money You’ve Spent on Taobao
Some users just found out they could’ve bought a house with the money they’ve spent on Taobao.
Over the past few days, a new Taobao feature that allows users to see how much money they have spent on the online shopping platform is flooding Chinese social media.
Taobao Marketplace is China’s biggest online shopping platform. Owned by tech giant Alibaba, Taobao was launched in 2003 to facilitate consumer-to-consumer retail.
For many people, Taobao shopping has become part of their everyday life. Whether it is clothes, pet food, accessories, electronics, furniture – you name it, Taobao has it.
Because buying on Taobao is so easy, fast, and convenient, many online consumers lose track of how much they actually spent on the platform – especially if they have been using it for years already.
Thanks to “Taobao Life,” users can now see the total amount of money spent on their account.
How to do it? First: go to Taobao settings and click the profile account as indicated below.
Then click the top icon that says “Achievement” (成就).
And here you find what you have spent in this account in total. On the left: the money spent, on the right: the amount of purchases.
Since I’ve used started using this Taobao account for the occasional clothes shopping since 2016, I’ve made 122 purchases, spending 7849 yuan ($1140) – a very reasonable amount compared to some other Taobao users, who are now finding out they could have practically bought an apartment with the money they have spent on Taobao.
This user, for example, found out they spent over half a million yuan on Taobao ($75,500).
This user below has spent over 1,1 million yuan on Taobao ($170,000).
Some people discuss all the things they could have bought with the money they have spent on Taobao over the years: “As soon as I saw the number, I wanted to cry,” one Weibo user writes: “What have I done?!”
Another person, finding out they have spent 230,000 yuan on Taobao ($33,400), writes: “This can’t be true! Surely this must be a mistake!?”
“If I wouldn’t have spent all this money on Taobao, I would’ve been rich,” others say.
The topic of Taobao’s total spending amount has become so popular on Chinese social media this week, causing so much consternation, that Taobao posted a message on its Weibo account on July 27, writing: “We heard you guys couldn’t sleep last night..”
Although many people are shocked to find out the money they’ve spent on Taobao, others console themselves with the thought that adding up everything they have spent on Taobao, they were actually ‘rich’ at some point in their lives.
Cybersecurity Experts Warn: Flicking the V-Sign in Photos Could Give Away Your Fingerprint Data
Online Anger over Inappropriate Toast by Dutch Watch Brand Executive at Chinese Dinner Party
Famous Chinese Nursery Song “One Penny” Inflates to “One Yuan”
Controversy over Scene in Anti-Japanese War Drama Featuring Black U.S. Soldier and Chinese Nurse
From Hong Kong Protests to ‘Bright Future’ – The Top 3 Most Popular Posts on Weibo This Week
- Backgrounder1 month ago
How the Hong Kong Protests Are Discussed on Chinese Social Media
- China Celebs3 months ago
Faking Street Photography: Why Staged “Street Snaps” Are All the Rage in China
- China Insight3 months ago
Chinese Blogger Addresses Weibo’s “Elephant in the Room”
- China Food & Drinks3 months ago
Coca Cola Chicken Wings Are Here! McDonald’s China Introduces Cola Chicken on Its Menu