Adolf Xitler, Winnie The Poo and CoronaXi are among hundreds of nicknames for Chinese leader Xi Jinping banned on the Instagram-like Chinese social network Xiaohongshu, writes Vice.
By scanning the internet for memes, satirical videos, and negative comments about the Chinese president, Xiaohongshu content moderators discovered 564 words and terms related to Xi over the course of two months in 2020 and removed them from the platform as a precautionary measure.
This information was obtained from a 143-page report that was intended for Xiaohongshu’s internal use but ended up in the hands of journalists. It shows that the social network does not just monitor content, but also actively monitors news and develops strategies to prevent the spread of potentially sensitive topics.
This highlights the extreme lengths to which Chinese social media go to control public opinion and stay one step ahead of the discourse.
The file contains “public sentiment diaries” for two weeks in May 2020, when content moderators flagged potentially trending news stories and manually identified keywords to ban so the social network’s censorship apparatus could more effectively check related content.
“I had never heard of such a thing when I was working at Weibo in 2011. We only took orders and deleted things accordingly, instead of making predictions based on sensitive topics,” said Eric Liu, a former content moderator. Liu is now an analyst for the US news website China Digital Times, which obtained the document from the group in Telegram.
Vice was unable to independently verify the document. Xiaohongshu did not respond to a request for comment.
Although Xiaohongshu’s social media is primarily about lifestyle and travel, its moderators are required to monitor news events, including natural disasters, health and safety incidents, protests and strikes, marketing scandals, and important political events. As the diaries showed, moderators reported an average of 30 events every day and received specific instructions on how to react to them.