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Similarly, on 17 September 2012, four of the five Sina UC lists were reduced to a single keyword.

The remaining keyword list is used to censor the username a user may select, meaning that censorship of incoming and outgoing messages appears to be effectively eliminated in Sina UC.

Correlation between current events and keyword list updates 8. Key questions for the study of state–sponsored Internet censorship include: how do censors determine which content to control? Do censors care mostly about content that might cause organized movements such as protests?

Introduction While the existence of Internet censorship and surveillance in China is well known, questions remain concerning how such information controls are implemented in practice domestically. Do certain priorities apply when deciding what content should be subject to censorship and surveillance?

In many cases, measuring what is censored entails guessing terms that might be censorship keywords and then testing those terms, leading to results that are limited to the intersection between what censors are targeting and what those measuring the censorship expect to be censored.

It is possible, however, that Sina UC has implemented surveillance features on the server side that we are unable to detect (this possibility is further discussed in Section 8).

Censorship and surveillance can be triggered or modified in response to events happening on the ground.

While our dataset provides a unique window into how two Chinese companies implement information controls, our study is limited to the application of such controls in only two IM clients, providing a view of a narrow segment of a much broader communications environment through which users in China exchange information.

The dataset offers insights into China’s information control regime but also raises further questions on how industry enforcement works in practice in China, the social and political implications of these IM clients’ censorship and surveillance operations, and how surveillance and censorship features of these IM clients compare to those of other Internet services in China.

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