Daily Archives: October 14, 2019

Blizzard Lowers Penalty on Hong Kong Streamer, Says China Uninvolved in Censorship – ExtremeTech

Posted: October 14, 2019 at 5:48 pm

Last week, several events have shown a spotlight on Chinese censorship of the ongoing Hong Kong protests. Chinese censors have been taking increasingly draconian action to crack down on criticism of the country. When a Hong Kong-based Hearthstone streamer voiced support for the protesters who have battled for their right to a fair trial, Blizzard cracked down harshly. Chung blitzchung Ng Wai was suspended from Hearthstone for a year and forced to forfeit his prize money. A similar punishment was applied to the two individuals who were interviewing him at the time.

The community response has been withering. Multiple casters and streamers have announced boycotts or stepped away from various positions and roles in the Hearthstone community. Now, Blizzard has released a lengthy statement on the matter, written by the company president, J. Allen Brack. It announces that the full-year ban against Blitzchung has been reduced to six months and that his prize money is no longer forfeit. It also claims: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same.

This pair of excerpted statements are a master class, ironically enough, in self-censorship. Lets talk about why.

When people think of censorship, they tend to think of a government or corporation suppressing information by refusing to allow it to be published. This is one type of censorship, to be sure, but its not very compatible with the existence of the modern internet. Simple anti-publishing mandates are fairly easy to route around on the internet, where an article that exists online even for an instant can be screen-shotted and disseminated.

A far more effective tactic is to teach people to self-censor by convincing them that speaking up is not in their own best interest. A related term, soft censorship, refers to the practice of using financial pressure on media companies to persuade them not to speak up on certain topics out of concern for having their access restricted or revoked.

As we detailed in our previous coverage, China has directly encouraged self-censorship by enforcing severe penalties against offenders. In 2018, Marriott published an online poll listing Tibet as a separate country rather than a part of China. A Tibetan separatist group published a link to the survey. A Marriott employee, Roy Jones, liked the post the separatist group made. He wasnt Tibetan. He knew nothing about China-Tibetan relations. He was doing his job promoting content created by people who appeared to be fans of Marriott.

Jones, who made $14 per hour, was fired within a week.

In February 2018, Mercedes-Benz took down an Instagram post because it quoted the Dalai Lama and enraged China in the process. The offending quote? Look at the situations from all angles, and you will become more open. I have no idea why anyone thought this statement would be useful when selling cars, but its objectively meaningless as far as any reference to the political situation between China and Tibet. Instagram is also banned in China, meaning few-to-no Chinese users would have even seen the ad.

Chinas disproportionate responses are not mistakes. Theyre the whole point.

If you want people to self-censor, fear, uncertainty, and doubt FUD are your absolute best friends. When China cracked down on popular online bloggers and opinion-makers in 2013, it claimed it did so to prevent fraud, abuse, and slander but many of the accounts taken offline had a political edge to them. 9,800 social media accounts were banned in a single action. Afterward, the government introduced new laws governing online speech. At least one woman went to jail for three years for breaking them. This year, the Chinese silenced a social media star named Ma Ling, with more than 16 million followers. The NYT reports she posted about a young man with cancer whose talent and virtue were not enough to overcome problems like corruption and inequality.

The Chinese government obliterated her social media accounts and erased her online presence.

Egregious overreaction to seemingly minor events is how China maintains the necessary climate of fear. While it cannot directly jail the employees of Americans who mouth off on Twitter, it can certainly make retaining those employees incredibly expensive for companies wishing to do business in mainland China.

Lets get back to Blizzard. China is a major market for the company. While Blizzard no longer releases player data for World of Warcraft, China currently accounts for 5.2 percent of Activision Blizzards revenue, almost double from its share one year ago. Activision Blizzard earned $7.2B in 2018. Assume equivalent revenue for 2019 (just to make the math simple), and that means China would be worth about $360M to the combined company.

You are Blizzard. A streamer from Hong Kong makes a statement you know will enrage the Chinese government. Do you instantly take action to remove the content, thereby preserving your harmonious relationship with the Chinese people, or do you wait for the censors to act, knowing how you will be treated if you do? Keep in mind, there is explicitly no guarantee whatsoeverthat you will not be punished. Others in your exact situation have been punished. But if you act instantly, theres a chance youll be deemed to have been acting in good faith.

Presented, once again, without commentary. But you might infer insinuation.

This is why I suspect J. Allen Brack could write that China had nothing to do with his companys decision. It could very well be true. Blizzard didnt make this decision after its lovable pal Xi Jinping stopped by with a pot of honey problem that needed solving. It made this decision independently, knowing that its entire Chinese business could be at stake if it did not. This, my friends, is what is often referred to as motivated reasoning.

As for the second part of the statement, I suspect its true as well. Would Blizzard have cracked down on a streamer with a big pro-China message? Very possibly but importantly not for the same reason. Blizzard likely cracked down on pro-Hong Kong statements to save its own ass. It would crack down on a pro-mainland China statement to preserve the illusion of neutrality. The only way for Blizzard to superficially appear to be neutral is to declare that it will crack down on both viewpoints. Neutrality, by its very nature, supports the status quo in this case, the idea that no one is allowed to talk about Hong Kong unless its the government of mainland China. And mainland China has precious little interest in allowing news of whats actually going on to reach its own citizens.

Image by Polygon

J. Allen Bracks statement makes no mention of the fact that a Hearthstone team from American University attempted to get itself suspended by doing exactly what Blitzchung had done just days before. That team has not been penalized. In fact, it received a next match assignment after its action a match it will forfeit in protest. Evidently China still recognizes that there are certain people it would be unprofitable to go after or Blizzard realizes that its efforts to curry favor with Xi Jinpings administration have already been catastrophic for its brand. Possibly both.

Everyone practices self-censorship to a certain extent. I personally learned the value of the concept around age 10, when I called a church deacon a bastard for not taking my money during the offertory. My mother turned a shade so alarming, my father thought shed choked on a mint. But when applied at the corporate or government level, self-censorship isnt just a personal decision we all make to smooth social interactions. In situations like this, its poison to the very idea of transparent or accountable governance. And Ive seen the impact in my own work.

Since I ran my first story on this topic, multiple readers have reached out to tell me they dont dare share the link. Some of them travel to China regularly. Some of them have friends and family there. This is precisely how self-censorship and Chinas social credit monitoring system are supposed to work. When I heard this from readers, it then occurred to me that I might be targeted in some fashion. This is also by design. Anxiety is socially transmissible.

This article is my response.

Chinas censors know they cant control every word that people say on social media. They know even the most ardent human filters cannot read every single line of text before its put online. Instead of attempting an impossible task, they rely on the rest of us to do their dirty work for them. I have known people at Blizzard for 20 years. I participated in the closed beta tests for Diablo II, Warcraft 3, World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and many of the WoW expansions. I have written tens of thousands of words about World of Warcraft over the last 15 years. I admire many aspects of the company, but its initial response to this situation was flatly unacceptable. Its current half-retreat wears the queasy smile of an abused individual hoping immediate obeisance will stave off a blow. Having rushed to defend the tender feelings of the Chinese government, the company now feels compelled to tack backward in response to public opinion.

Blizzard could and should do better. Its one thing to promote free trade of goods and services. Its another thing entirely to do business when the cost of doing so is the suppression of the rights of private US citizens to speak their minds concerning public affairs of the day. A low-level Marriott employee was bullied off his job for the crime of failing to grasp the context of a complex geopolitical situation on Twitter. This is not some hypothetical what-if scenario. Chinas censors are already changing content, getting people fired, and controlling the larger narrative around geopolitical events in important ways now.

If we stand by and allow this to happen we will be giving up the right to free speech in the corporatized public-private spaces that now dominate the internet. China will not allow internet companies to operate within its borders without agreeing to enforce its censorship policies. We already know Google was willing to build Project Dragonfly, a new search engine for the Chinese market, despite having previously publicly pledged not to work in the country. Based on how the country is now acting, we can assume any companies with a media presence that extends into China will find themselves policed for improper references to China. How we collectively respond to these events will determine what happens when these collisions of values occur. Google killed Dragonfly only after widespread public outcry and protests from its own employees. When employees, users, and citizens demand companies stand up for the values they claim to stand for (and that Americans wish to stand for in general), theres a much greater chance of affecting change.

Stand for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.

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Blizzard Lowers Penalty on Hong Kong Streamer, Says China Uninvolved in Censorship - ExtremeTech

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Following Censorship Controversy at Aichi Triennale, Artists Discuss Why They Removed Their Workand Then Reinstated It – – ARTnews

Posted: at 5:48 pm

Installation view of Regina Jos Galindos LA FIESTA #latinosinjapan, 2019, at the Aichi Triennale 2019.

ITO TETSUO

When the Aichi Triennale in Japan opened at the beginning of August, it immediately caused controversy. The outcry was largely centered around one section of the exhibition, titled After Freedom of Expression?an exhibition-within-an-exhibition about censorship within Japan. That section included a work by Korean artist-duo Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung,Statue of a Girl of Peace, which referenced the history ofianfu, or comfort women who were drawn from throughout Asia and forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army. The history is so contentious within Japan that many politicians within the country did not acknowledge it until 2015.

When the organizers of the Triennale decided days later, on August 3, to close After Freedom of Expression?, citing safety concerns, 72 participating artists in the triennial signed a letter condemning the exhibition. A week later, with the exhibition still closed, a group of 10 artists wrote an open letter, first published on ARTnews, saying that they would remove their own work in solidarity.

On October 9, after more than two months of the After Freedom of Expression? being closed, the organizers reopened the section and put back on view all the removed works. But the After Freedom of Expression? was only open to visitors who entered a lottery to see the it. (The Triennale closed Monday, October 14.) Anyone who saw the section had to sign statements saying they would not post images of it to social media, according to the Art Newspaper. The Japan Times has also reported that, as a result of this controversy, the Cultural Affairs Agency of Nagoya Prefecture would withhold a 78 million (about $720,000) state subsidyabout 15 percent of the exhibitions total 1.2 billion (about $11 million) operating budget.

ARTnews reached out to some of the 10 artists who withdrew their works to ask about their experiences throughout the controversy and what it means going further.

Pedro Reyes

This edition ofAichiTriennale is perhaps the most political exhibition that has taken place in Japan in this century. Beyond the After Freedom of Expression? exhibition, all the other works included in the show were highly political as well. As a curator, I commissioned works that addressed two issues that are known to be problematic in Japan: feminism and migration. The artists I invited shared the fact that they usually take a stand [when] they address these issues in their work. They initiatedtheboycott in order to increase the pressure on local authorities to provide a safe environment for theAichiTriennale to reopen the exhibition. It is important to observe that during this crisis, for every space that had closed, other spaces opened, thanks to the artists initiative. As a result to their constant commitment, we were able to overcome censorship and the exhibition is now back to its full, original version.

Minouk Lim

Japan has an important role in the international art scene. I hope that the decision to reopen reflects their great will to protect freedom of expression rather than to blame the victims and artists. This is why the reopening of the section is significant on a symbolic level.

However, I cannot just simply say that I am happy due to the fact that my work has become the target of aggression and the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs decision to cut down the subsidies for the Triennale. Still, I am grateful for Japanese artists who courageously took risks to speak against the closure and further promoted more freedom of expression for the future.

Javier Tellez

We celebrate that Governor Hideaki Omura and the Aichi Triennale finally re-opened the censored works, but we wish it would had happened earlier, and not 10 days before the exhibition closes and with limited access. Nonetheless it is a significant gesture that could lead to a open discussion of issues of conflict-related violence and historical memory in Japan. It is a shameful event that neo-natinalist Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura staged a sit-in protest to oppose the reopening and the Agency for Cultural Affairs decided to withdraw the subsidy for theAichiTriennale, an unacceptable form of institutional blackmail. The struggle continues. Freedom of expression matters!

Claudia Martnez Garay

The organizers told us [the exhibition would] reopen just few days ago, and our work will reopen too, because we removed it in solidarity with the censorship.We are now happy, because all this time we were trying to support the closed exhibition and the artists, but it was very painful process. [Next to the reopened work] is a red sign saying Now Open and our solidarity letter. It is very important for usthat there is a register of the removal because the audience may not be aware of the complicated situation it was: the position of the artists, and how and when we make the decision to pause in order to support the colleagues, while trying not to affect the triennial.

Although we worked together and were communicating openly with the triennial, it was very difficult for them to reopenthe exhibition because of threats and bureaucracy. It was not possible for them to open it faster, and we thought in the end it was never going to open, that the exhibition would end with all our works taken away. They were very respectful of our decision, and helped us reopen. All of us, as artists, want the same things: freedom, respect for our memories, and being able to speak our minds while being considerate of each other.

It is very important to support the triennial now, because the government is punishing them now with threats of cutting the funding of the triennial, which is very important for the city and brings a lot of visitors, economic value, and diversity of cultures to the city. If they cut these funds, they will win. There will be no need for protests no place to express anything.

Regina Jos Galindo

I am very satisfied with the fact that an agreement has been reached to open the censored exhibition which obviously results in the opening of our works as well. In my case, I had worked with many people and for a long time, and I think it was important to talk about the situation of migrants in Japan. I hope that the situation regarding the payment of the subsidy will be solved positively, because I do not quite understand the scope that this dire decision could have.

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Following Censorship Controversy at Aichi Triennale, Artists Discuss Why They Removed Their Workand Then Reinstated It - - ARTnews

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China censors a lot, from Winnie the Pooh to the NBA – CNN

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China censors a lot, from Winnie the Pooh to the NBA - CNN

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Lets Not Take Cues From a Country That Bans Winnie the Pooh – The New York Times

Posted: at 5:48 pm

What happens when Chinas enforcers come after Winnie-the-Pooh?

Will we reluctantly hand over Pooh Bear? Really sorry about this, Winnie, but Chinas an important market!

Winnie-the-Pooh has been banned in China online and at movie theaters because snarky commentators have suggested that he resembles the portly President Xi Jinping. But these days Xi doesnt want to censor information just in his own country; he also wants to censor our own discussions in the West.

Thats the backdrop to Chinas hysterical reaction to a tweet by Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets general manager, sympathizing with Hong Kongs pro-democracy demonstrations.

When the N.B.A. moved into China in the early 2000s, it made a plausible argument that engagement would help extend our values to China. Instead, the Communist Party is exploiting N.B.A. greed to extend its values to the United States.

China is also forcing American Airlines to treat Taiwan as part of China, and it bullied Mercedes-Benz into apologizing for quoting the Dalai Lama. It made Marriott fire an employee for wrongfully liking a tweet by an organization that favors Tibetan independence.

Theres not much we can do about a dictator like Xi bullying his own citizens, but we should not let him stifle debate in our country.

Let me interrupt this diatribe, however, for important context. Those of us who criticize Xi must also have the humility to acknowledge that child mortality is now lower in Beijing than in Washington, D.C., that China has established new universities at a rate of one a week and that Shanghais public schools put our own school systems to shame.

So, yes, lets stand up to Chinese bullying and speak up when China detains at least one million Muslims, in what may be the biggest internment of people based on religion since the Holocaust. But lets also note that China has helped lift more people out of poverty more quickly than any nation in history. With China, its always helpful to hold at least two contradictory ideas in our heads at the same time.

Xis anxiety about the internet, religion, Hong Kong protesters, even Winnie-the-Pooh underscores his own insecurities. Xi seems terrified that real information will infiltrate the Chinese echo chamber, undermining his propaganda departments personality cult around a benign Uncle Xi.

We can exploit Xis fear to gain leverage and maybe to chip away at Chinese nationalism just a little bit with three steps.

First, raise Chinas blocking of outside news sites and social media platforms as a trade issue before the World Trade Organization. In a new book, Schism, about China and global trade, Paul Blustein explains how the U.S. could join with other countries to make such a trade case based on the W.T.O. agreement. Trade experts arent sure the case would succeed, but its worth trying.

A second step the United States should take is to invest more in internet circumvention technologies to help ordinary Chinese vault the Great Chinese Firewall and read uncensored news. The U.S. spends more than $700 million a year on broadcast programs to sometimes-obscure parts of the world, but only tiny sums to help citizens of closed countries access the free internet.

Richard Stengel, a former under secretary of state who was involved in these programs, told me that he generally agreed that the U.S. should invest more in circumvention technologies. It aligns with American values, he said. Id be in favor.

Some American officials Ive spoken with worry that this would enrage Xi. Yes, it might. Frankly, its also not clear that many Chinese want to access the outside internet, for they dont much use tools like Ultrasurf and Psiphon that already enable them to do so (with a bit of difficulty).

Those are fair concerns, but I worry even more about the rise of nationalism in China inculcated in part by the Communist Partys education system and propaganda machine. Ive seen over the decades how a freer flow of information eventually can liberate minds and peoples, and the world would be better off if that process unfolded in China.

Then theres a third step, still more delicate and dangerous: The American intelligence community should gather information on the corruption in the Xi family that has allowed it to amass a huge fortune with a hint that if China undertakes a brutal crackdown of Hong Kong or an assault on Taiwan, this information will slip out. This is what Xi fears most, and we shouldnt pass up that leverage.

I love China and believe in engaging it. We should try to work out a trade deal and cooperate on issues from climate change to drug trafficking. But lets push back when Xi tries to stifle free discussion not only in China but also in America.

Otherwise, if American business continues to kowtow, some day there may be a knock on the door, and therell be Uncle Xi sternly asking us to hand over Pooh Bear.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. Wed like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And heres our email: letters@nytimes.com.

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Lets Not Take Cues From a Country That Bans Winnie the Pooh - The New York Times

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I’m a Blizzard gamer. I am boycotting them over their Hong Kong censorship – The Guardian

Posted: at 5:48 pm

Theres a unifying factor between companies; it brings people of all political ideologies together, unites the left, the right, and everything in-between. Executives and shareholders alike may not agree with one another on abortion, or human rights, or freedom of speech, or social welfare, or pretty much any divisive issue you can imagine, but they can most certainly agree that one thing is more important than all the concerns of the little people: the profit margin.

Blizzard, the creator of massively popular games such as World of Warcraft and Hearthstone, proved exactly that this week. Chung Ng Wai, a Hong Kong-based player who is known by the name Blitzchung, won a game in the Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament and gave an official interview. In the interview, he said Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time, which is the standard protest slogan in the city. He was also wearing the goggle and face mask combo used to protect Hong Kong protesters from facial recognition and tear gas.

Blizzard has a rule against expressing a political opinion that displeases any portion of the public, so this was clearly against the rules. However, rather than empathize with a young man in a struggle for his human rights, they chose to take a leaf out of the Chinese governments book and respond with full force. They suspended him for a year, took back all his winnings for the year, condemned him on social media, and even fired the two casters who were simply interviewing him. To use the colloquial term, shit hit the fan. Longtime supporters of Blizzard, including myself, were outraged. How could an American company take such a harsh stance against free speech? Not the kind of free speech where you say slurs, either literally the most important form: criticizing an authoritarian government.

Employees staged a walkout, covering up two of the eight core values of Blizzard which are engraved outside their HQ think globally and every voice matters. US senators have condemned the companys action, citing China leveraging access to its vast market as a way to reduce free speech globally. The former team lead Mark Kern, who helped spearhead the original World of Warcraft, began accelerating a scattered boycott by cancelling his subscriptions. He tweeted an emotional thread. He is ethnically Chinese and lived in Hong Kong for a time. He spoke of the corruption of Chinese gaming companies, claiming that they offer bribes for big budget titles and saying they tried to ruin his career with planted press stories because he refused kickbacks. Chinese money now dictates American values, he said, and I have to agree with him.

In China, every movie, game, app or book has to go through the General Administration of Press and Publication in order to be released to the public. it has strict censorship protocols, in which nothing negative can be said about China, past horrors committed by the government cant be mentioned, and the publication cannot offend the culture of China. This means a big no-no on blood and gore, which means games censor bones, blood and guts. Blizzard actually does this, releasing censored versions of their games in China.

American companies comply with these ridiculous rules to get access to the colossal Chinese market. The NBA is experiencing this right now: the manager of the Houston Rockets simply stated his support for Hong Kong, and China blacklisted the Rockets from being shown on Chinese television. The country can cut your access at any time, for pretty much any reason they deem appropriate. Such as a player of your game expressing support for a rebelling territory.

'Chinese money now dictates American values,' Mark Kern said, and I have to agree with him

I can understand from a business perspective why Blizzard would cave, and undoubtedly the Chinese government explicitly asked it to heavily punish everyone involved. Blizzard gets up to 12% of its revenue from Asia, and presumably a huge portion of that is from China. Losing that much of your revenue tonight could destroy your company by tomorrow. So is it justified? Was Blizzard just making the smart business decision?

Perhaps, but we should all be deeply worried about how tied up western companies have gotten with authoritarian regimes. They, and they alone, put themselves in a position where the Chinese government can gut their company at their leisure. Every company that willingly aids Chinese government repression should be deeply ashamed. We all know that its really corporations that run the world, and these corporations could cut their margins by a few per cent and stand up for values such as freedom of speech, but they wont, because they dont care about the little people.

Oh, theyll throw the people a bone every now and then. Theyll make characters gay, theyll make their conferences accessible to those who are hard of hearing, theyll use buzzwords like diversity and inclusion, theyll invent company values like every voice matters and lead responsibly, but when the rubber hits the road and they have to actually stand up and fight for basic human rights at the expense of investor profits, they fall, and they fall hard. Had Blitzchung said Fuck Trump on a Blizzard livestream, do you really think he would have received the same punishment? I doubt it. Try saying Xi Jinping looks like Winnie the Pooh and see how far you get.

Its easy for ordinary people to feel that they are powerless. But we can all do something small, and the small gestures from thousands or millions of us will add up. I loved Blizzard; up until two days ago I was playing Classic World of Warcraft daily. Ive spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours in its games. However I couldnt, in good faith, continue giving it a single cent of my money. Its actions and complete disregard for human rights have disgusted me, and the entire community that plays its games.

Its sad, its unfortunate, but I think we should all cancel our WoW subscriptions. Delete Battle.net from your computer, uninstall Hearthstone, delete your account, it doesnt matter. Stop giving this company money. When youre cancelling your subscription, mention Hong Kong, mention Blitzchung, condemn Blizzard on every medium you know. Get your friends to cancel their subscriptions, encourage each other to stop playing, find something new. Find a company that hasnt picked profits over freedom, and give it your money instead.

What Blizzard gains in revenue from China, it must lose from the rest of the world. Gaming is normally a medium used to escape from a harsh world, but sometimes you have to stick to your principles and say No, Diablo 4 isnt going to fix this. The company wont change unless you do. We have to speak in the only language it knows: money.

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I'm a Blizzard gamer. I am boycotting them over their Hong Kong censorship - The Guardian

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Chinese Rappers Take On the Surveillance State – The Atlantic

Posted: at 5:48 pm

In 2017, the television series Rap of China debuted to 100 million views in the first four hours of its release. Prior to the show, rap had existed in China only in underground circles; it had become mainstream overnight. But its ascendance to the realm of pop culture would have dire consequences for freedom of speech in the country.

A year later, as Rap of China headed into its second season, the Chinese government imposed widespread restrictions on the countrys nascent rap scene. It blacklisted 150 rappers. References to hip-hop culture were banned from appearing in all media sources, including television and movies. Although the laws governing the censorship were left deliberately vague, they were strictly enforced. Artists whose heart and morality are not aligned with the party and whose morality is not noble, the Communist Party said, were no longer able to perform in public.

"In China, you never know exactly what is forbidden, says a Chinese rapper in David Verbeeks short documentary Trapped in the City of a Thousand Mountains. Thats actually a very clever tactic. It makes everyone more careful. Without a clear boundary, people will be more prone to self-censor."

The atmospheric film follows a group of Chinese rappers through the streets of Chongqing, one of Chinas largest cities, as they discuss life in the surveillance state as marginalized musicians. Verbeek, who lived in China for 12 years, tapped his network to find subjects for the film. Some of the musicians who appear in the film, such as Mister Da, have been forced to abandon their music as a result of the new regulations. Others, like Ghostism, continue to use the genre as a platform for fomenting dissent.Wherever there is repression / There will be rebellion, he raps.

The films cinematography is ominousshot mostly in the shadows of the night, flashes of neon lights intermittently puncturing the darkness, as if evoking the role of the artist in the resistance.

The essence of hip-hop is to be a critical voice that empowers communities, Verbeek told me. Now, however, the role hip-hop plays in China is marginal, because it is castrated.

According to Verbeek, censorship, digital espionage, and surveillance have had a widespread impact on Chinese youth. The situation has numbed peoples brains to critical thought, and has, ironically, turned them into the perfect consumers for Western materialism, he said. But despite all the brainwashing, the Chinese remain soulful people, full of character and spirit. Their openness and generosity will always continue to surprise meits in direct contrast to their government.

China doesnt have freedom, says one musician who appears in the film. Thats real talk.

His friend gets the last word: You better stop talking now.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

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Chinese Rappers Take On the Surveillance State - The Atlantic

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Blizzard Hong Kong controversy: what happened and why it matters – Vox.com

Posted: at 5:48 pm

Activision Blizzard, one of Americas biggest gaming companies, just bowed to Chinese censorship in a disturbing way: suspending a professional player of Hearthstone, its digital card game, over a statement supporting the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.

The offending commentary from Chung Ng Wai, a Hong Kong-based player who goes by the name Blitzchung, came during an official interview on Sunday held after he won a match in the Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament, the highest level of competition in the game.

Chung said Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time a protest slogan in the city while wearing goggles and a face mask, items commonly donned by protestors to conceal their identity. The protests, which began over an extradition law, have morphed into a broad-based demand to protect the semi-autonomous citys democratic political system from mainland Chinas attempts to exert control over it.

On Tuesday, Blizzard came down hard on Chung. In an official statement on Hearthstones blog, the company announced that it would be suspending Chung for a year, forcing him to forfeit thousands of dollars in prize money from 2019 and firing the casters (commentators) who conducted the interview.

This is a big deal.

Blizzard, who created (among other things) World of Warcraft, is a massive company. It brought in about $7.5 billion in revenue in 2018. Like the NBA, which has rebuked the Houston Rockets general manager over a pro-Hong Kong tweet, Blizzard is not merely trying to operate within the confines of Chinese censorship but acting as its agent.

The non-Chinese Hearthstone player base is furious with Blizzard; the games subreddit is full of longtime players vowing to quit the game in protest. Count me as one of them.

Ive been playing Hearthstone daily for about two years, including spending some money on cards and reaching the top tier of the games competitive ladder (the Legend ranks). But now Im done, both with Hearthstone and any other Activision Blizzard product, unless it reinstates Chung and the casters.

Blizzards argument for suspending Chung hinges on an alleged rule violation, specifically Section 6.1 of the official Hearthstone Grandmasters rules. The rule prohibits engaging in any act that, in Blizzards sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.

The idea here seems to be that supporting pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong has brought Chung into public disrepute in mainland China, justifying his suspension. The actual motivation is most likely crasser: Blizzards userbase is declining, and it is counting on expansion in the very large Chinese market to reverse the downward momentum.

The gaming giant ... is badly in need of a stimulus after its market value declined by a quarter over the past twelve months, the financial news company AlphaStreet reported in January. Blizzards strategy of taking the China route for regaining the lost strength is currently followed by many American tech companies.

Blizzards userbase remains overwhelmingly non-Chinese. According to the companys most recent financial data, from June 2019, the entire Asia-Pacific region makes up a scant 12 percent of its revenue. Since that region includes large gaming markets in places like Japan and South Korea, mainland Chinas clout is smaller than you think and pales in comparison to the Americas (55 percent) and Europe/the Middle East (33 percent).

So while Blizzard may have a lot of ground to gain in the Chinese market, a significant hit to its revenue in the United States and other liberal democracies would be a massive threat. Blizzards fans in those countries have a lot of leverage over the company.

And, in this case, theyre justified in using it.

Navigating the Chinese market is difficult for major companies and requires some necessary tradeoffs. Blizzard has changed the art in World of Warcraft to comply with Chinese cultural norms and strictures, notably cutting out some goriness and skeletons. Thats maybe not ideal, but at least a defensible choice for a company that has a clear financial stake in the Chinese market.

Censoring a professional player for expressing support for the democracy movement in Hong Kong and seizing his money is way over the line.

It isnt merely adjusting a cosmetic part of the product to fit a particular market; its actively participating in the suppression of political speech on behalf of core liberal values. Blizzard is throwing its lot in with an authoritarian state, acting as an international agent of its repressive apparatus in opposition to fundamental human rights.

An organized boycott targeting Blizzard is also a relatively rare opportunity for ordinary citizens around the world to help out the Hong Kong protestors working to protect their democratic system.

Its hard to do much for the brave people taking to the streets from thousands of miles away, but international consumers do have leverage over international corporations. Punishing Blizzard for its behavior could help send a signal to other companies that acting as agents of the Chinese state carries a cost and that they need to think carefully before throwing Hong Kong under the bus.

Blizzards censorship of Chung is hardly the only case of a US company acting on behalf of China. Just yesterday, the NBA issued a statement distancing itself from Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, after he tweeted support for the Hong Kong protestors. The team is reportedly considering firing him in order to placate Chinese authorities and protect NBA investments there.

The league is facing a bipartisan political backlash as a result; Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several Democratic presidential candidates have condemned the leagues actions.

But Blizzard, less well known among the American political class, isnt facing the same amount of high-level political condemnation. For now, it seems its up to Blizzards users to show the company that its actions have consequences.

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Here’s a list of companies taking the knee to Chinese censorship – TweakTown

Posted: at 5:48 pm

I'm sure by now you've heard about the massive issues going on in China, which have been going on for a very, very long time now - but we're at a point where it's hard to ignore, even for gamers.

Activision Blizzard is in the crosshairs of Chinese censorship, with the Overwatch, Diablo, and World of Warcraft creator bowing to Chinese pressure. Activision Blizzard recently suspended one of its pro Hearthstone players after the player support pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

But the list is growing, wtih Apple taking a knee to Chinese censorship and even the likes of American Airlines, Gap, Mercedes-Benz, Ray-Ban, Nike, TikTok, and many others pressured by the country and its strict stance on criticism. Mashable has compiled a big list of these companies that include (so far, as I'm sure there are more):

* Prices last scanned on 10/14/2019 at 6:03 am CDT - prices may not be accurate, please click for very latest pricing

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Here's a list of companies taking the knee to Chinese censorship - TweakTown

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The Seven Deadly Sins: Wrath of Gods Debuts with Heavy Censorship of Blood and Gore – Bounding Into Comics

Posted: at 5:48 pm

The third season of The Seven Deadly Sins anime, Wrath of Gods, recently debuted on Japanese television much to the dismay of fans who found that depictions of blood and gore were being heavily censored.

In the first episode of the new season, titled The Light That Drives off Darkness, viewers discovered that depictions of blood, such as Escanor slicing a demon in half or Merlin blowing a hole in a demon with her Purgatory Venom technique, were colored bright white and that depictions of gore, such as Ban using his Snatch ability to take out a monsters heart, were colored black:

Related: Seven Deadly Sins Confirms Season 3 Release Date

Related: Cosplay of the Day: Sarah Addy as Elizabeth from Seven Deadly Sins

As this episode provided a re-cap for viewers of the previous season, this censorship was most notable when recounting Melodias death at the hands of Estarossa, as the scene was depicted with a giant black circle covering up Melodias wounds, which were clearly visible in the original episode:

Left: The original scene as seen in The Seven Deadly Sins: Signs of Holy WarRight: The same scene as seen in the recap featured in The Seven Deadly Sins: Wrath of Gods premiere

Related: New The Seven Deadly Sins Anime Announced by Studio DEEN

Fans have expressed their displeasure regarding the censorship on social media:

The season premiere marks the debut of Studio Deen as the series primary animator, replacing A-1 Pictures who had worked on the previous two seasons, and of the series on its new broadcast home, TV Tokyo. It is currently unknown what roles, if any, these two companies had on implementing the heavy censorship.

Its unclear if this censorship will carry over to the United States release that will come to Netflix.

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Democrats accuse DeVos of ignoring claims of censorship, civil rights violations at Liberty University – Lynchburg News and Advance

Posted: at 5:48 pm

A pair of House Democrats have accused Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of ignoring allegations of censorship and civil rights violations at Liberty University because of the institutions close relationship with President Donald Trump.

In a letter Monday, Rep. Andy Levin, D-Michigan, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D- Maryland, argue Libertys honor code violates a recent presidential executive order and federal civil rights laws because it places extreme restrictions on student speech and relationships between LGBTQ students.

Given that Libertys violations are public and longstanding, we are left to conclude that the Departments failure to act is deliberate and that it is only interested in enforcing free speech policies against institutions it deems unfriendly, the congressmen wrote.

Mondays letter, which includes additional allegations unrelated to Liberty, asks DeVos to hand over records involving investigations into free speech violations to the House by Oct. 21. It is unclear if DeVos will comply with the request. A spokesperson for DeVos did not return requests for comment.

In a statement Tuesday, Falwell said the congressmens letter demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the scope and purpose of federal laws governing private universities.

Unlike most of its counterparts in the United States, Liberty University actually promotes free speech and free expression. Using its own resources, Liberty University invites conservatives and liberals, as well as Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Independents to its regular student Convocation forums and commencement ceremonies, Falwell said.

At the heart of the letter are claims DeVos is improperly giving cover to Liberty, an institution the congressmen describe as politically aligned with the Trump administration.

Falwell is a vocal supporter of the president and has said Trump offered him the job of education secretary shortly after the 2016 presidential election. Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have spoken at Liberty graduation ceremonies in recent years.

Levin, the vice chair of the House Education Committee, and Raskin, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, wrote that Liberty is in violation of an executive order issued in March directing federal agencies to ensure colleges promote open debate as well as Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions receiving federal money.

The letter takes aim at Libertys honor code, known as The Liberty Way, for banning students from consuming media and entertainment that is offensive to Libertys standards and traditions and prohibiting sexual relations outside of a biblically- ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman.

The congressmen also allege Liberty has suppressed student journalism, referencing a 2016 decision by Falwell to remove a student-authored opinion piece from the university newspaper criticizing then-candidate Trump for boasting of sexual assault. Falwell told The News & Advance at the time the column was redundant because the paper already was printing a letter urging support for Trumps opponent Hillary Clinton.

In their statement, Liberty officials pushed back against allegations of censorship and discrimination, saying the honor code is fully consistent with the proper role of a Christian institution and the First Amendment prohibits the federal government from intervening in speech decisions made by a private institution.

In the statement, Falwell notes the alleged incidents of censorship occurred long before Trumps executive order but also argues the episodes would have not violated the order had it been in effect.

The censorship wrongly claimed by the congressmen was simply Liberty University exercising its editorial control over the Liberty Champion, the newspaper it owns, publishes and pays the staff. Even though most of that staff consists of student employees, it is not and has never been a student newspaper, Falwell said.

It is indeed a shame that two federal legislators can be so out of touch with the basic civics concerning the laws about which they wrote the secretary, Falwell added. Even so, Liberty University will respond to any inquiry of the Department of Education to set the record straight.

Richard Chumney covers breaking news and public safety for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.

Richard Chumney covers breaking news and public safety for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.

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Democrats accuse DeVos of ignoring claims of censorship, civil rights violations at Liberty University - Lynchburg News and Advance

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