How pandas help Chinese social media users fight government censorship

At the very beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Chinese government in every possible way hid the true picture of what happened, which caused sharp criticism from users of Chinese social networks. The authorities responded immediately: numerous “critical” terms came under the pressure of official censorship.

For example, in January, users of the social platform Weibo began to complain that the words "Wuhan" and "Hubei" (the epicenter of the outbreak) were severely restricted on the frequency of their use. Posts containing these words were available only for a small part of users, and criticism of the authorities was completely removed from them.

Another popular social media platform, WeChat, has also blacklisted many phrases like "Xi Jinping Goes to Wuhan" and "Wuhan + Crisis + Beijing, " according to a recent report from research group Citizen Lab.

Faced with such tough opposition, social media users began to "encrypt" prohibited terms. For example, the words "Wuhan" and "Hubei" were designated "wh" and "hb".

Against the background of increasing censorship in the context of the epidemic, more and more restrictions are imposed on the network language every day, which stimulates the regulars of social networks to look for alternative options. So, the Chinese name of the government has already turned into "zf", the Chinese police into "jc", and one of the symbols of the country - panda - means, no less, the National Security Bureau.