China's amazing internet effort to rewrite history, censor present and control its future

China’s amazing internet effort to rewrite history, censor present and control its future

The Culture
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[New York Times] Li Chengzhi had a lot to learn when he first got a job as a professional censor.

VIDEO: [NYT] The censorship price Google pays to do business in China: Will we be paying it too?


Like many young people in China, the 24-year-old recent college graduate knew little about the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. He had never heard of China’s most famous dissident, Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died in custody two years ago.

Now, after training, he knows what to look for — and what to block. He spends his hours scanning online content on behalf of Chinese media companies looking for anything that will provoke the government’s wrath. He knows how to spot code words that obliquely refer to Chinese leaders and scandals, or the memes that touch on subjects the Chinese government doesn’t want people to read about.

Mr. Li, who still has traces of youthful acne on his face, takes his job seriously. “It helps cleanse the online environment,” he said.

For Chinese companies, staying on the safe side of government censors is a matter of life and death. Adding to the burden, the authorities demand that companies censor themselves, spurring them to hire thousands of people to police content.

That in turn has created a growing and lucrative new industry: censorship factories.

Mr. Li works for Beyondsoft, a Beijing-based tech services company that, among other businesses, takes on the censorship burden for other companies. He works in its office in the city of Chengdu. In the heart of a high-tech industrial area, the space is bright and new enough that it resembles the offices of well-funded start-ups in tech centers like Beijing and Shenzhen. It recently moved to the space because customers complained that its previous office was too cramped to allow employees to do their best work.

“Missing one beat could cause a serious political mistake,” said Yang Xiao, head of Beyondsoft’s internet service business, including content reviewing. (Beyondsoft declined to disclose which Chinese media or online companies it works for, citing confidentiality.)

This article continues at [New York Times] Learning China’s Forbidden History, So They Can Censor It

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