onsdag 7. august 2019

The forbidden images of the Chinese internet

Nothing reflects the lasting potency of the iconic "Tank Man" photo quite like the dogged attempts to censor it on China's internet. Practically any image that so much as gestures at the famed photograph of a man in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square risks deletion from the country's closely monitored web; recreations showing a line of books approaching a cigarette package, a swan before an oncoming truck and a grasshopper in front of a tire have all been removed.

According to Weiboscope -- a social media monitoring project at Hong Kong University -- even Francisco Goya's "Third of May 1808" (1814), which echoes the Tank Man in sentiment and composition, could not make it past censors.

Behind China's Great Firewall -- which is more like a continually shifting, dynamic barrier -- the Tiananmen Square massacre did not happen, the ongoing Hong Kong extradition bill protests are incited by Western countries and Winnie the Pooh doesn't exist. This tightly controlled media climate has given rise to innovative circumvention tactics. While searchable keywords in plain text face automated deletion, digital images require more nuanced monitoring.