Random thoughts

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What does Yahoo messenger think of the word “communist”

January 10th, 2009 · No Comments

I was using Yahoo messenger to chat with a person in Beijing. The subject was John DeFrancis’ death, and since the occasion had led me to read his biography, I was mentioning to my chat partner that “in the 50s he could not find a position in a university because he was thought to be a communist”. My friend’s reply surprised me… “a what?”.

Turns out that if I type the word “communist”, my chinese chat partner sees a whitespace instead. She can happily type “communist” back to me, and I will receive it.

I don’t exactly know why I’m surprised. I’m expecting some level of censorship in China, even though I don’t necessarily find the word “communist” to be elegible for censorship. Maybe I’m just surprised that a Google search on the subject of Yahoo messenger’s censorship skills doesn’t seem to generate any interesting results, but I have to admit my search was very cursory.

I’m probably just overreacting after the TOM/Skype partnership hit the news last october. That case was very different, since it was proven that the censored words, and the people who typed them, were being logged on a server. Hopefully my innocent eulogy of a sinologist I admire did not get logged anywhere else but in this blog.

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