By Tenzin Sangmo
Thousands of students calling for democratic reforms at Tiananmen Square before the massacre (Getty)
DHARAMSHALA, May 28: With the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre coming up next Tuesday, China’s robot censors are working overtime to effectively detect and block any reference to the anniversary, reported New York Post
June 4th is considered the most sensitive day of the year for China’s internet. On this day in 1989, student’s pro-democracy movement ended at Tiananmen Square after soldiers fired on unarmed students on the streets of the capital.
Fearing leakage of information on the day and rise of dissent, robot censors aided by voice and image recognition are being employed to upgrade the censorship, an initiative by Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), officially led by President Xi Jinping, whose leadership is known for increased ideological control of the internet.
Two employees at Beijing Bytedance, a Chinese Internet technology company told NYP on the condition of anonymity that censorship of the Tiananmen crackdown, along with other highly sensitive issues including Taiwan and Tibet, is now largely automated.
“Posts that allude to dates, images and names associated with the protests are automatically rejected.”
Four censors, working across apps like Bytedance, Weibo - the Chinese equivalent of Twitter and Baidu - the number one search engine in China said they censor between 5,000-10,000 pieces of information a day or five to seven pieces a minute.
In the lead-up to this year’s Tiananmen Square anniversary, censorship on social media has targeted LGBT groups, labour and environment activists and NGOs.
Although China never revealed the massacre's death toll, human rights groups and witnesses estimate it to be from several hundred to several thousand.
With Xi’s tightening grip on the internet, the flow of information has been centralized under the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department and state media network.
“When it comes to news, the rule is simple… If it is not from state media first, it is not authorized, especially regarding the leaders and political items,” a Baidu staffer told NYP.
Punishment for failing to properly censor content can be severe for the companies while for internet users and activists, penalties can range from fines to jail time for spreading information about sensitive events online.
June 4 is famous around the world, known for the iconic photo of the "Tank Man" standing up to the armed might of the CCP, but discussion of what happened on that day remains heavily censored in China and public mourning of the victims is forbidden.