Censoring a commemoration: What June 4-related search terms are blocked on Weibo today

June 3, 2013

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Categories: Reports and Briefings, Research News

As citizens in China and around the world commemorate the twenty-fourth anniversary of the June 4th incident in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Internet censorship in China around this sensitive date has now become expected and almost routine. Though, as Tech in Asia notes, the censorship this year likely won’t be as intense as it was during the twentieth anniversary—when hundreds of sites went down for so-called “Internet maintenance”—and as websites consider more subtle forms of filtering out June 4-related posts, much overt censorship will still take place on sites behind the Great Firewall, including seemingly trivial steps like removing the candle emoticon from being inserted into Sina Weibo posts.

Another way the social media site Sina Weibo censors its site—alongside manual deletions by human censors of sensitive content and other steps—is by blocking the user from searching for specific keywords, and instead returning a message that says no results can be displayed. Though the blocking of keywords is a blunt tactic that often cuts off access to many legitimate posts—in addition to sometimes being ineffective as users switch to homophones or other code words—it is still widely employed on the site. Below are seventy-one keywords (along with brief translations and notes by researchers here at Citizen Lab) that are currently blocked from searching on Sina Weibo.

Words related to June 4 that are blocked from searching on Sina Weibo as of 2013-06-03 16:00:00 UTC
keyword notes/translation triggered by
JUNE4事件 June 4 incident JUNE4
天安门 Tiananmen Square  
坦克人 Tank man 坦克
liu四 Jun-04  
六四 In reference to the Tiananmen Square protests that occurred on June 4th, 1989. This is literally the numbers “64″.
学潮 Campus upheaval  
ⅥⅣ Roman numerals for 6 (VI) and 4 (IV), referring to June 4, 1989.
Jun 4th    
June 4th
陆肆 Another way of writing 六四, or Liu Si, in reference to the Tiananmen Square protests that occurred on June 4th, 1989.  
五月三十五 May 35th
瓶反鹿死 (contextual translation) Redress June Fourth  
six四 June 4 [1989]
six月four日 June 4 [1989]  
TAM事件 Tiananmen incident
王维林 Wang Weilin (Tank man)  
春夏之交 Between Spring and Summer
武警镇压 Repression by armed police 镇压
河殇 River Elegy
6.4 This is a reference to the Tiananmen Square crackdowns on June 4, 1989.  
six four June Fourth
six-quatre    
工自联 Capital/Beijing Autonomous Workers Federation
广场 Square (or plaza)  
坦克 tank
纪念 Remembrance/memorial  
戒严 Martial law
平反 Redress; vindicate  
维园 Victoria Park (Hong Kong)
学生领袖 Student leaders  
学运 Student movement
长安街 Chang’an Avenue  
鎮壓 Repression
高自联 Beijing Autonomous University Students Union  
liusi Six four (June Fourth)
自由花 Flower of Freedom  
8964 Simple code for June 4, 1989.
四二六社论 The April 26 Editorial  
历史的伤口 The wound in history
六月的第四天 Fourth day of June  
六si Six four
六four Six four  
六肆 Jun-04
八平方纪念 Eight squared memorial (8 to the power of 8 = 64) 纪念
six*4
屠杀大学生 Massacre of university students 屠杀
国殇之柱 Pillar of shame 国殇
61后三天 61 three days later  
61之后三天 61 three days later
民主女神 Goddess of Democracy  
⑥④ six four
8qb4 8964 (meme)  
五月35日 May 35 (aka June 4)
平反VIIV Redress June 4  
5月三十五 May 35 (June 4)
己巳年己巳月乙未日 ji si year, ji si month, yi mo day  
tank man http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tank_Man tank
三月九十六号 March 96th (June 4)  
四月六十五号 April 65th (meme for June 4)
⑥㈣    
毋忘阝坴镸聿 Do not forget June 4 (meme)
平*反 Redress; vindicate  
李鹏日记 Li Peng Diaries (Book) 李鹏
lipeng日记 Li Peng Diaries (Book) lipeng
八9六4 89 64
Blood is on the square   square
六亖 Jun-04
黄雀行动 Operation Yellowbird, the Hong Kong movement to help activists leave mainland  
八九學運 1989 student movement
八九運動 1989 Movement  
six.4

direct link

This test was performed by Jason Q. Ng utilizing research by Jeffrey Knockel into words that trigger surveillance and censorship on Sina UC and Tom-Skype. Using Knockel’s list of known sensitive words related to June 4 on those chat clients, we tested them on Sina Weibo on June 3, 12:00 PM EST, discovering the above keywords to be blocked from searching on Weibo. See Blocked on Weibo for more information about blocked keywords on Sina Weibo.

Jason Q. Ng is the author of Blocked on Weibo, a book about censorship and sensitive topics in Chinese social media. Other recent topics of research include online reaction to the 2012 Party Congress in China and anti-Japanese discourse on Sina Weibo. He previously worked as a research consultant at China Digital Times and a book editor, having graduated with degrees in English from Brown University and East Asian Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Ng will be working with the Citizen Lab on various research projects over the coming summer.
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