Sunday, April 5, 2015

How the New York Times is Eluding Censors in China

Here's a link to an interesting piece on the aggressive strategy currently being employed by the New York Times in China. Since October 2012, China has blocked the Times' English and Chinese language websites as a consequence and repercussion for publishing an extensive investigative piece about the wealth of the family of Premier Wen Jiabao. In light of this censorship, the Times and many other foreign media companies have been re-evaluating their strategy in China, weighing what to cover and how to cover it. The approach the Times is taking is listed below:

1) Mirroring: Every time a new article appears on the Times’sChinese language website, three or four copies of it appear on “mirror” sites scattered around the internet. While these mirrors,like this one of the company’s home page, are often quickly made inaccessible by censors, new ones crop up constantly, often made or sanctioned by the Times. The recent hacking attack on GitHub targeted a “mirror” of the New York Times’s Chinese-language site was not set up by the Times itself, but the strategy is the same—create a webpage that points readers in China to New York Times’ Chinese language content, and circumvents censors.

2) Using apps: Articles are published on apps targeting the Chinese-language market that have often been ignored by Chinese censors for weeks or months at a time, before being blocked. Often these apps are openly branded with the “New York Times” name.

3) Pushing news on social media: The New York Times’ official social media accounts, as well as its reporters, are blocked by censors. But the company continues to publicize new articles on social media accounts in China that are repeatedly shut down by the censors and reinvented under new names, in what one person familiar with the strategy described as a “cat-and-mouse game.” A Weibo search for “New York Times” turns up accounts like this one maintained by “Budo movie,” for example.

4) Syndicating to local websites and newspapers: Several domestic news outlets continue to purchase the rights to run New York Times stories, like QDaily.

Craig Smith, the papers managing director for China declined to discuss the technical specifics of the new strategy instead stating that, "the only thing I can say is that we have a very strong tech team that works tirelessly to make our journalism accessible to readers in China". More than two years after China decided to censor the newspaper, and due to the aggressive strategy being employed, the New York Times' online audience in China has rebounded and has more than a million unique users daily. 

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