Science, Technology, and Social Media

Chinese State Media Suggest US Big Tech Censorship Proves Free Speech Is Unattainable

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  • Chinese state-run media condemned Twitter and Facebook’s censorship of President Donald Trump last week, suggesting that the U.S., which is generally thought to represent democracy, isn’t democratic, according to a New York Times report.
  • “The banning of the US president’s social media account for ‘risks of further incitement of violence’ shows that freedom of speech does indeed have boundaries in every society,” Chinese state-run Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin wrote.
  • While state media used the purge to say that free speech doesn’t exist in the U.S., Chinese social media websites, usually quick to ban posts that criticize the Chinese Communist Party, allowed users to openly criticize American censorship, The New York Times reported.

Chinese state-run media, known for its censorship of dissenting viewpoints, pointed to Big Tech’s banning of President Donald Trump as evidence that there is no country with truly free speech.

Chinese state-run media condemned Twitter and Facebook’s censorship of President Donald Trump last week, suggesting that the U.S., which is generally thought to represent democracy, isn’t democratic, according to a New York Times report. A Jan. 9 editorial published in the state-run Global Times said the systematic Big Tech crackdown proves that there are limits to free speech in “every society.”

“The banning of the US president’s social media account for ‘risks of further incitement of violence’ shows that freedom of speech does indeed have boundaries in every society, and humans are not capable of regulating freedom of speech in its full sense,” Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin wrote. “This is a pity, but it’s also a reality.”

Xijin added that the social media bans of Trump are the result of a broader “degeneration” of the U.S. political system.

Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, Reddit and other platforms suspended or banned the president in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 “Save America” rally where Trump spoke before rally attendees stormed the Capitol building, Axios reported. On Jan. 8, Twitter was the first to permanently suspend Trump from using his account, citing potential “incitement of violence.”

Tens of thousands of conservative accounts were purged from Twitter in the aftermath of the riot.

While state media used the purge as evidence that free speech doesn’t exist in the U.S., Chinese social media websites, usually quick to ban posts that criticize the Chinese Communist Party, allowed users to openly criticize American censorship, The NYT reported. Chinese users were given free reign to rant about American Big Tech companies.

“Legally he’s still the president,” one viral post on the popular Chinese social media platform Weibo said, according to The NYT. “This is a coup.”

“A country as big as the United States can’t tolerate Trump’s mouth,” another popular post said. “U.S. democracy has died.”

Another post drew a parallel between the U.S. and “Saddam’s Iraq and Gaddafi’s Libya,” The NYT reported. Political cartoonist Kuang Biao, whose drawings critical of the Chinese Communist Party have been regularly censored, was not censored when he posted a picture of Trump’s mouth sewn up.

In addition, a WeChat post written by well-known law professor He Weifang supporting censorship of Trump was removed from the platform, according to The NYT. A link to the post now leads to a warning message saying the post had “violated rules.”

“When Twitter banned Trump, it was a private platform refusing to serve the president,” a Weibo user wrote, The NYT reported. “When Weibo bans you, it’s simply executing government guidelines to censor an individual’s speech.”

In 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping issued new rules ordering news outlets to serve the Chinese Communist Party, removing their independence, according to an article in a state-run news outlet praising the decision.

Businessman Ren Zhiqiang was silenced on social media for criticizing Jinping’s orders, according to The NYT. In September, Zhiqiang was sentenced to 18 years in prison after he criticized China’s coronavirus response.

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