The postings are gone but they haven’t disappeared, thanks to the Weiboscope, a computer tool that tracks the handiwork of mainland web police on the country’s most popular microblogging service.
The tool, developed by Fu King-wa, research assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Center, monitors deleted postings on Sina Weibo by regularly sampling timelines of a set of selected Chinese microbloggers who have more than 1,000 followers or whose posts are frequently censored, Apple Daily reported Thursday.
The Weiboscope immediately reveals deleted postings, which are then translated into English and posted on Twitter for a non-Chinese reading audience.
In 2012, the system logged 226 million Weibo posts of which more than 10.9 million were no longer publicly accessible because of censorship or because they were voluntarily cut by the user.
So far the Weiboscope has found that 883 of 4,458 Weibo postings related to June 4 topics have been culled since the start of the year.
That level was 15 times the usual rate, with the deleted postings staying online for a median 98 minutes.
The issue is personal as well as academic for Fu. Twenty-five years ago he was a student helping broadcast news about students’ democracy movement to Hong Kong.
Weiboscope is now offering its June 4 special edition for the public at http://weiboscope.jmsc.hku.hk/june4th/ . Visitors can just click on key words on the screen or input key words to see the deleted comments.
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