Error 20021: Crowdsourced Report on Weibo’s Various Censorship Methods
“20021” may sound like a random string of numbers or a mangled date, but many Weibo users know this as a sign that they can’t post “sensitive” content. Telegram user @cybergraveyardcn (简 中 赛博 坟场) recently sent CDT categorized and participatory data documenting many years and varieties of Weibo censorship. The report, translated below, includes screenshots of error messages, notices, and other indications that a post has been censored on Weibo. @cybergraveyardcn has since released the full report on Telegram. Readers can see more Weibo censorship archives on the @cybergraveyardcn channel by searching for the term “# 微 博 存档” (Weibo Archives).
Note: all content is my own work. The images have been chosen at random to serve as examples and do not represent my personal opinions. Please excuse me for any errors you might find. Date created: February 12, 2020
I. Unable to publish or display
1. (Error 20021) Sorry, unable to complete current operation due to content that violates applicable laws and regulations or the terms of the Weibo Community Agreement. (Post is blocked due to specific content.)
2. Comments containing sensitive words cannot be viewed. Called “how engulfing” for short.
II. Censored image or video
1. Image cannot be opened.
2. The video has been deleted.
3. The image can be opened from the timeline on the home page, but not from the post itself. (In this case, the animated GIFs that cannot be attached are usually official images containing the names of heads of state.)
1. Restricted circulation. The number of views is zero or a very small number. The post does not appear in the user’s timeline.
2. The “Repost” button automatically disappears from the post. Only the “comment” and “like” buttons are displayed. Content can only be viewed by mutual friends.
3. Replay and commentary functions are normal, but the content of replay and commentary is not visible.
4. Republish disabled from the original post (the “repost” button is gray), but can be republished from other users’ reposts.
5. Comment disabled. Comments cannot be viewed. The post can be reposted, and the repostes are still visible.
6. Repost and comment functions disabled. The message cannot be reposted or replied to.
7. “Like” disabled.
8. The publication may be republished, but the full text of the original publication cannot be viewed.
9. Blocked from editing the message.
10. Blocked from job promotion [a paid service].
11. The author has chosen to display comments selectively.
IV. Content of censored publication
1. The “Repost” button disappears after a certain number of reposts. Content is only visible to mutual friends.
2. Another user reported you for a policy violation. In accordance with Weibo’s rules for reports and complaints, … [sic] has been deleted.
3. This post has been deleted for violation of applicable laws and regulations and Weibo rules for reports and complaints. Displayed as error 20112: The permission to display this message has been temporarily revoked.
4. Account inspected by the computer police for suspected violation of regulations; content processed for regulatory violation.
5. The original post and replay channel have been removed.
6. The original message is not deleted, but the chain replays have been selectively deleted.
7. Customer service makes the Big V account visible only to the account owner.
V. Censored research
1. The account exists, but does not appear in the search bar.
2. Search results only show content from verified users.
3. In accordance with applicable laws and regulations, search results cannot be displayed.
1. I like unauthorized. The likes disappear automatically.
2. Rests are not allowed. The reposts seem to work, but do not appear on the user’s page.
3. (Error 20016) Updated too frequently. Triggered by several reposts in a short period of time.
4. Must enter verification code to follow, unfollow, like, comment or repost.
5. Because you recently posted content that violates applicable national laws and regulations, your Weibo account is suspended for seven days / 30 days / 90 days / one year / etc. You may or may not receive a private message informing you of the suspension.
VII. Account deleted
Unusual activity has been detected on your Weibo account. Please reactivate your account to restore normal operation. (Error 3022608) Commonly known as a bomb attack. The account page displays the message “User does not exist” and posts display the message: “This account cannot be viewed because the user has been reported for violating applicable laws and regulations and the terms. Weibo Community Agreement ”or“ Content does not exist. [Chinese]
Translation by Anne Henochowicz.
CDT independently verified some of the images included in the report. For example, a screenshot shows that nationalist influencer Ren Yi, better known as Chairman Rabbit (兔 主席 @jeune), posted an image with a caption in Chinese that read “The hypocritical mob is a ‘ cancer ‘over the rule of law. ” The screenshot shows that the image has been removed, a common censorship method on Weibo, where longer texts are often shared as images. The CDT discovered that President Rabbit was using the exact same title in a blog post dated July 14, 2019. The blog post also included an image of a short essay in which he criticized protesters in Hong Kong. It is likely that he posted the image to Weibo and then it was deleted, as shown in the screenshot from @cybergraveyardcn.
Another screenshot shows the Weibo user @ 欧洲 文艺 评论 posted, “Genius translated the name of American Gilead’s new drug ‘Remdesivir’ as ‘Hope of the People’” (美国 吉利德 的 新药 Remdesivir ， 竟然 被 高人 翻译 为 “人民 的 希望”). (The name of the drug, Ruìdé xīwéi 瑞德西韦 looks like ren[mín] by xīwàng 人[民]?? [people’s hope].) The screenshot shows that the post’s comment feature has been disabled. CDT could not locate the original message, but other posts made around the same time (February 2020) attribute the sentence to the same author.