Until recently, most of China’s social media censorship has been relegated to speech that targets the government.
Now the war of the words is coming for sexual innuendo.
On Tuesday, the Cyberspace Administration of China unveiled a new set of regulations that will scrub social media of the 25 most popular dirty words in China, according to Bloomberg.
As Chinese cybersecurity expert Jason Q. Ng points out, the new list is mostly explicit, yet harmless language.
“In many ways, we’d assume that China has been stepping back away from these certain issues,” said Ng, a cybersecurity expert at the University of Toronto who has written extensively about Chinese social media. “With the drive against pornography, rumours, and these vulgar words, we’ve been seeing renewed attention to the moralistic aspect of trying to govern anything online.”
The new regulations are part of a broader push by the state to enact stricter moral standards aimed at cleaning up the internet. Last year, censors shut down over 100 pornographic websites and cracked down on social media “rumour-mongering.”
“We should clear the smog of coarse language,” CAC spokesman Jiang Jun said, according to Bloomberg. “And the internet companies should take the responsibility to do so.”
Here’s a roughly translated list of a few of the newly banned words, which are based on Chinese news site People’s Daily’s list of the most widely used insults, innuendos, and dirty words:
- “Your mum”
- “green tea b**tch”
- “green eggs”
- “howling monster”
As Quartz and the TV personality Wilmer Valderrama point out, “your mum” doesn’t stand up much as an insult on its own. The newly banned phrase — which, according to the list, was used almost 250 million times on Weibo last year — carries a bit more weight. The phrase implies a sexual act with “your mum.”
The list contains other euphemisms.”Green eggs” refers to the colour of men’s testicles. “Green-tea b**tch” refers to someone who acts innocent to hide their ruder side.
China’s government has a history of striking words that it doesn’t like from social media sites. As Ng writes in his book “Banned in Weibo,” the government has taken steps to flag posts with political euphemisms and references that cast a negative light on the state.
The current ban is part of a larger push by the government to clean social media in order to save the youth from the poisonous, corrupting influence of social media slang and internet predators. As People’s Daily points out, China is focusing on educating teens about cybersecurity awareness to help protect citizens from hackers.
The push harkens back to a failed government effort in the 1980s to rid the country of Western cultural influences. Referred to as the “anti-spiritual pollution campaign,” the effort banned Western fashion, art, and culture.
It’s unclear whether the censoring will do much to clean up the Chinese web. But if we know anything about teens, it’s that they can always come up with new ways to talk about sex and insult each other.
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