I admit that I sometimes take for granted the freedoms and opportunities we are granted by living in a democratic country where free speech is largely allowed and not suppressed. There are plenty of people stateside who might disagree with that statement and at a micro level, they have a point, I suppose. Look no further than social media companies outright banning certain people or de-emphasizing certain posts that contain controversial content. Or our own government’s relationship and influence on the press. Some of this is very concerning.

Sometimes it gets muddy out there, I know that. But zoom out a little bit and you get the point – even with the warts, we are afforded various freedoms of expressions and choice that many other countries do not have and definitely long for. For all its blemishes, and there are many lately, the United States remains on a pedestal for the many suppressed who live outside of it. And maybe that number of people who aspire to live like Americans has dropped a bit. I wouldn’t know.

So it was with a bit of fascination (and now added perspective) that I read this morning’s New York Times article about content suppression and censorship in China. It is worth a read. The Chinese censhorship engine is so well-oiled and so strong that dissenters truly have to put a lot of effort into gaming the system and having their content be made visible anywhere. It’s getting to the point where protesters are just playing the volume game with dissenting content just to try and overwhelm the servers, as it may be.

Yet over the past few days, as Chinese people frustrated by severe Covid lockdowns have taken to the streets, videos of the marches and rallies have continued to surface on Chinese sites such as WeChat, a chat app, and the short video sharing app, Douyin. Experts say the sheer volume of video clips has most likely overwhelmed the automated software and armies of censors China has tasked with policing the internet.

New York Times, 11/29/2022

Along with playing the volume game, the article talks about how people are flipping videos on their side or recording videos of videos to confuse the AI and Machine Learning Chinese police bots. People in China are also hacking their way onto Twitter and Instagram (banned in China), as those are “beyond the reach of China’s officials.” You have to really work hard in China if you want to voice your opposition. You also have to work hard to even be outdoors – COVID restrictions in China are brutal and militant (sometimes literally) in ensuring that people aren’t out and about spreading what is, for many, a bad cold.

I was also slightly amused to hear that many Chinese citizens were astounded while watching the World Cup, because all of the spectators were maskless. This is how much the media is controlled by the Government there. Chinese citizens aren’t exposed to any part of the world that is moving on from COVID. It’s hard to believe, but there it is, clear that Chinese coverage of the World Cup is purposefully keeping cameras only on the field now and even obscuring or blurring crowd shots so as not to show unmasked people.

Chinese officials “are telling people that outside of China people are dying massively, they can’t handle the virus” and “that what we are doing is the only correct way,” Xiao said. So when people see a different reality on display at the World Cup and compare it with their own situation, perhaps under lockdown, it can sow discontent, he said.

Washington Post, 11/29/2022

So yeah, there’s a lot wrong with America these days. But perspective can be interesting, sometimes, right?