Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chess opening leads to blocked position

What, another chess-on-Twitter post? Not at all. Or not entirely. For this post is about the Chinese version - or if I understand it accurately, versions - of Twitter. These services are known as Weibo.

Apparently these services suffer a certain amount of censorship, since China remains a heavily repressive and unfree society. (Probably considerably more than even Russia, though one might not think so to read the chess press, for reasons which are a digression for another day.) There are many words which, at one time or another, are censored: posts which employ them will be automatically moderated and are likely to be deleted.

Now of course internet moderation exists everywhere, as does censorship of one sort or another, but not only is Chinese censorship rather more drastic than most of us are accustomed to, but it has the curious aspect that the Weibo user does not appear to know which words are actually subject to censorship, and this therefore has to be inferred. Nor, obviously, is any explanation given, so that has to be inferred as well .Which is not always simple to do. An English-language website, Blocked On Weibo, exists to try and establish which terms are at any given time blocked on Weibo, and why.

Recently (on 24 February, to be precise) this site analysed a number of terms that were blocked on Weibo as of December 2011, these terms all consisting of three or fewer Chinese characters, and in the course of doing so produced a list of 219 censored terms.

Of course reading such lists is always a joy. You may choose to snicker your way through the list yourself, but I provide a small selection below:

Fifty cents (sic)
Communist bandit
Foot Fetish
Fuck me
Shanghai Gang
Three-colour cat
Moaning language
The Exorcist
Tiananmen Square
Flash mob
Political prisoner
Three different versions of "bestiality"



which, you may be interested to learn, means chess opening.

Why this largely harmless term, largely used by largely harmless people, should be blocked* is a mystery, not only to me but to the Blocked On Weibo site, which is unable to provide any explanation, speculative or otherwise. Nor can I, although naturally I am concerned about it, since I know a number of people who if they were not allowed to discuss chess openings online, would have next to no social life at all.

I do however note that the term 64 also appears on the list. Perhaps this provides a clue, though no more than that. My knowledge of chess openings is, unfortunately, quite extensive: my knowledge of Chinese, unfortunately, rather less so. I can scarcely even speculate. Is there anybody out there who can do better?

(* or have been blocked: it's not clear to me whether it remains so)

[via Blood And Treasure]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I see Seven Deadly Sins has also been blocked. How come Chess for Zebras is not on the list as well then?