Two of China’s popular science social media accounts were suddenly scrubbed, marking a step-up in censorship on China’s online platforms.
Independent media outlets, Elephant Magazine and its affiliated PaperClip, and their founder’s personal account vanished from China’s primary social media platforms on July 14 without warning. Neither China’s Internet watchdog nor other authorities posted any comments or punishment.
Millions of followers were surprised to see an error message when accessing the accounts on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, YouTube-like Bilibili, and Quora-like Zhihu. Attempts to access their WeChat official accounts failed, and a message saying the content had been blocked as the account had “violated regulations on the management of accounts offering public information service on the Chinese Internet” appeared.
China’s new Internet regulation, which launched in January, has led to the forced closure of piles of official accounts, that covered topics ranging from politics, the military, diplomacy, or economics, to health.
Reasons for the latest ban remain a mystery, but the step is not a bolt from the blue.
Early in 2014, the official account of Elephant Magazine on WeChat was blocked for the first time. founder Huang Zhangjin suggested the suspension was linked to articles written by a Uyghur from China’s far-western Xinjiang region.
Huang decided to “steer away from politics” after the account was resumed eight days later.
Featuring scientific and technological videos, PaperClip has been the subject of controversy.
PaperClip announced the suspension on June 18 and apologized for comments by their now ex-employees. According to the account’s statement, a U.S. Army Research Laboratory staff did an internship in their team when he studied at a domestic college. Another former writer was said to have posted negative comments about the communist regime on overseas social media platforms. Both employees’ Twitter accounts were removed.
PaperClip said it would give training to all employees on “ideology,” improve management, and invite senior editors from China’s mainstream media to review its content.
The recent attack came after one of its videos linked the consumption of meat, milk, and eggs in China with the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Nationalists’ again deemed the content had “colluded with foreigners to insult China.”
In March 2020,PaperClip was under fire for excluding self-ruled Taiwan in a map of China in a YouTube video, even though the independent country was added to the map on China’s video-streaming platform.
The Chinese regime has long claimed Taiwan, a de facto independent nation, as its province.