Shanghai video overwhelms Chinese censor, gets 400m views
A peek behind the curtain into the struggles of the Chinese censorship office
View from China with an Austrian School of Economics Perspective
“Voices of April” (“四月之声”) was posted on the Internet at 20:00 Beijing time on the evening of April 22nd. It is a collection of audio snippets from Shanghai recorded over the course of the lockdown and comes across as fairly balanced, neither cheerleading nor demonizing.
We reported on this here.
By 23:00, it had exceeded nearly 300,000 retweets and had over 30 million views.
At this time the public opinion control system warning was triggered, and manual intervention began. Large numbers of “negative and inflammatory comments” were detected.
The system automatically initiated keyword blocking and bandwidth restrictions. It also shadow-banned the video from interregional rebroadcasting.
The first traffic peak appeared at 23:30, when servers began to detect high levels of person to person forwarding to circumvent the previous measures taken. High traffic (celebrity) channels, video channels and personal accounts began to transmit large numbers of related comments.
Accounts based outside Shanghai also began to forward the video. Search engine index rankings rose rapidly.
At 12:00 am, the total views broke the 100 million mark. At 1:05 am, the traffic broke the 300 million mark, and at 1:17 am, the traffic broke 400 million. All the alerts went red and went into emergency intervention mode. At this point approximately half of the Chinese netizens had seen the video.
At this point, manual intervention could not keep up with the speed of retweeting and posting. All available staff were called up to support the suppression effort.
At 12:30 am a conference call was held to decide how to proceed. The Beijing network surveillance office determined that it was akin to inflammatory “revolutionary” content and was to be completely blocked.
As a result, all videos ended up as 404 status. Accounts which had forwarded the video over an unspecified number of times were to be cancelled. Other individual accounts which uploaded a version of the video are to be are “silenced” for a week.
Why did this video get shared and viewed so many times? Was it because the video was so exceptional? The reason is likely far simpler: Seeing such a balanced and factual video censored made millions of Chinese angry. Angry enough for them to put substantial energy into defeating the censor. They won.