Sina Head Editor: Censoring Tweets – What A Pain!

“Controlling content in Sina microblogs is a problem which is a very big headache.”

There — we’ve tried our best at verbatim translation. On, of course, Chen Tong (陈彤), the head editor at Sina. It’s no surprise that, given the fact that Sina is one of the largest portals in China, that the Chinese government is keeping a good eye on this thing. (The government keeps a good eye on everything: this blog included, dare we contend.) Basically, what Chen’s remarks are telling of is the fact that — surprise — censoring tweets on Sina Microblogs is a pain in the #ExpletiveDeleted.

Oh, and by the way, you weren’t supposed to know that. This article first found its way via Jingchu Web (荆楚网) and was posted onto at 12:38 on June 13, 2010. Within the same day, it got nixed (aka “harmonized”). No probs: the Twittersphere (especially in the uncensored “outer Twittersphere”) found a cached copy (thanks @wenyunchao for the tweet).

The article goes on by saying that in the recent case involving a Japanese porn star who wanted to apologize for Japanese invasion in China during World War II, that she’s doing what men and women in s_x__l relationships want to do — for free. (The offer’s good if you’re a Chinese student in Japan.) The message got retweeted about 5,000 times — snap, just like that. (Later “research” by Sina showed that nothing of the sort actually happened. Huh?)

However, that was a lesson as to how fast stuff can spread — through microblogs. We’re looking at a potential audience in the six figures who can get the inside skinny within a matter of minutes. With the world-renowned censors of the People’s Republic never far away (anywhere), this is the kind of stuff that keeps these people up at 3:30 AM (and a bit later than that as well).

Chen was also quoted as saying that although “controlling content” (that’s Chinglish 2.0 for “censorship”) is a real headache, Sina’s able to “do this work the right way” and that it’s confident it can get this sorted. Here’s the scary bit: some of the censors at Sina have been censors for 12 full years. (Poor them. This blogger wonders if they’re married or not; poor their spouses if they are.)

(But we digress.) The censorship goes on, day and night, taking no weekends, and is without interruption. Both the censors and the editors are at work, summarizing via email every hour, and holding censorship meetings (uh, yep, this is surreal) every day. This way, editors make sure their duty at filtering out controversial content is always met.

As for those who post controversial, censor-bait content (mainly “politically reactionary” content as well as (of course) porn), it’s just a case of communicating offline with the users or taking the “please stop tweeting this kind of content” notice public. If that’s not working, content’s removed, and if that’s not working, the user’s automatically deleted. Chen also recommends users who find “unhealthy” content to fully make use of the “Report Inappropriate Content” link on every page.

(That sure sounds Gestapo-ish. Imagine censoring your girlfriend’s tweets.)

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