China: An alleged list of banned SMS terms

Elaine Chow from Shanghaiist reports on an alleged list of banned SMS by major mobile companies in China in 2010. The documents, distributed by @zuola via Twitter, are claimed to be composed by a SMS service company, Boer, which tried to inform their users on all the banned terms adopted by major mobile companies including China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom.

The terms can be grouped into 6 major categories including:

1. National security and political terms, which consists of more than 700 terms such as “Cultural revolution”, “Xinjiang independence”, “Propaganda department”, “national security”, “anti-corruption”, “violence”, “riot”, “June 4″, “people”, “human right”, “democracy”, “CCP” and etc.

2. Around 200 Falun Gong related terms

3. Around 200 sensitive news related terms such as “telling the truth”, “petition”, “SCMP”, “Asia Magazine”, “suicide”, “public opinion”

4. More than 600 vulgar terms, such as “fxxk”, “gambling”, “sex”, “pornography”, “naked”, “dick”, “breast”, “fart”, “loser”, “dog shit”, “slut”, “illegal”, “bomb”, “adult movie”, “heroin”, “chat chat”, “prostitute”, “lonely”, “apartment”, “fake money”, “oral sex”, “waiting for you”.

5. Around 800 names, including historical figures, political leaders and dissidents.

6. Around 500 commercial spam.

Others are sensitive English terms and number combination (such as 8964).

As Elaine Chow points out “there's some doubt to whether these words are actually anything close to an official black list, or if they were just compiled by netizens gleefully supposing what the relevant bureaus would want to censor.” Since the censorship criteria and mechanism is non-transparent, different companies may have a slightly different set of filtered terms in different period of time, ordinary citizens are kept in the dark and it is very difficult to get hold of the full picture.


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