A Chinese version of Instagram bans users from posting nicknames like Adolf Xitler, Winnie The Poo, and CoronaXi in reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to leaked censorship guidelines.
Content moderators of Xiaohongshu identified 564 nicknames and sensitive terms related to Xi within a two-month period in 2020 and preemptively censored them from the platform, according to VICE.
The 143-page document reveals the app, Xiaohongshu, also monitors news and develops strategies to keep potentially sensitive topics from spreading on its site. Moderators scan the internet for memes, satirical videos and negative comments about the Chinese president.
"It highlighted the extreme lengths Chinese social media goes to in order to control public opinion and stay one step ahead of the discourse," VICE reported.
The leak included more than two weeks' worth of flagged content from May 2020. Moderators flagged news, but also manually identified keywords to ban, so the app’s censorship apparatus could screen related content more effectively.
"I had never heard of such a thing when I was working at Weibo in 2011. We only took orders and deleted things accordingly, instead of making predictions based on sensitive topics," Eric Liu, a former content moderator, told VICE World News. Liu is now an analyst for the U.S.-based news site China Digital Times, which obtained the leaked document from a Telegram group.
VICE World News could not independently verify the document. Xiaohongshu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The app primarily features lifestyle and travel content, but its moderators also observe news events including natural disasters, incidents related to public health and safety, protests and strikes, marketing scandals, and noteworthy political occasions. Content moderators report a daily average of 30 events and received specific instructions on how to handle matters, the leak showed.
After news of a male Chinese teacher who molested more than 20 male students in a decade broke, content moderators were asked to censor posts drawing parallels to other recent sexual assaults of minors or posts referencing homosexuality.
The document also listed protocols for handling emergencies. Moderators remove "harmful" posts immediately, extract keywords from the deleted content, and conduct a second round of screening to ensure nothing has been missed.
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