China stepped up its campaign in 2018 to control what news and information its citizens can see.
While censors continued heavyhanded control for any content deemed dangerous for social stability, including Peppa Pig videos and the letter “n”, regulators also deployed more sophisticated methods, going beyond Chinese social media and working harder to curate and shape what Chinese residents consume.
Authorities have been forcing activists on Twitter to delete their accounts and shutting down the social media accounts of university professors. Apolitical content is coming under more scrutiny. In October, almost 10,000 social media accounts for outlets publishing entertainment and celebrity news were closed.
The country’s largest internet companies have also stepped up self-censorship. The messaging platform WeChat issued a statement in November, promising to step up its policing of “politically harmful information” while in April, the boss of Jinri Toutiao, a content aggregator, issued a public apology more similar to self-criticisms in Mao Zedong’s era.
WeChat groups were regularly shut down and users sending messages to friends often found themselves the victim of censorship when their messages appear not to go through.
“WeChat group takedowns and news item deletions are happening with greater regularity across a shifting slate of topics,” said Rui Zhong, a programme assistant at the Kissinger Institute on China.
These were some of the banned phrases this year: