Chinese bloggers evade censors by writing backwards


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By Mark O’Neill
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

You have to hand it to Chinese bloggers – they are determined to get the truth out, no matter what.   OK, they are not facing the death sentence like their fellow counterparts in Iran but nevertheless, they still face prison for their opinions.  At the very least, their work will be deleted by faceless humorless bureaucrats.

So the bloggers are trying out new methods to evade Chinese government censors – the latest one is they are using tools and software to write backwards.   Or write vertically instead of horizontally.   This is apparently confusing the censors because they now cannot automatically track “objectionable phrases” (aw my heart bleeds for them).  One such “text flipping” tool is here.   Obviously the government will eventually find a way around it but the resourceful bloggers will probably have found another solution by then and will have moved on.

It’s easy for us in the democratic west to take our freedom of speech for granted.  We don’t think twice about giving an opinion online and then hitting the “publish” button.   We don’t have to fear the knock on the door or awkward questions being asked about our loyalty to the state.   We take our freedoms for granted because they’ve always been there.   But our fellow bloggers in China and Iran are not so lucky.   They have to look over their shoulder all the time and resort to text flipping tools, codes and guarded language to protect themselves and their family, while at the same time trying to break through all the officially sanctioned propaganda and get the real truth out to the world.

These are the unsung unrecognised heroes of the world.   It’s time we should recognise them more.   Plus if Iran passes that idiotic and insane death sentence law, we should all as an international community collectively do something, short of invading the country.

Edit: We’ve received several private threat emails in the past 24 hours because of this article. I’d just like to quote one of Mark’s comment for those of you who think that this text will bring the “limelight” on Chinese bloggers trying to evade attention from their government:

“And as for “dragging the Chinese bloggers into the spotlight”, I hardly think I have done that. I merely linked to and reported on a news report in the Wall Street Journal which is obviously a much bigger and much more influential publication than Geeks Are Sexy. So if you want to accuse anyone of dragging Chinese bloggers into the spotlight, call up the Wall Street Journal and ask for the managing editor.”







52 Responses to Chinese bloggers evade censors by writing backwards

  1. Very clever, but it should be noted that writing right-to-left or top-to-bottom is not at all uncommon in Chinese. It’s just not commonly done in electronic formats, so would appear scrambled to an automated scanning program but not to a human. The linked-to “text flipper” is something different entirely.

  2. Very clever, but it should be noted that writing right-to-left or top-to-bottom is not at all uncommon in Chinese. It's just not commonly done in electronic formats, so would appear scrambled to an automated scanning program but not to a human. The linked-to "text flipper" is something different entirely.

  3. Clever but unfortunately useless. If a blogger gets enough traffic, a human person will probably be called in to see it and then that poor blogger will face an even stiffer penalty.

  4. Clever but unfortunately useless. If a blogger gets enough traffic, a human person will probably be called in to see it and then that poor blogger will face an even stiffer penalty.

  5. Why not use embeded text into pictures then how are they going to find out what you are saying about any political issue? If someone wants everyone to know how bad something really is when its trying to be covered up then they just need to send it to a contact in any country that doesnt try to surpress there ocupants and let the world know on REDDIT.

  6. Why not use embeded text into pictures then how are they going to find out what you are saying about any political issue? If someone wants everyone to know how bad something really is when its trying to be covered up then they just need to send it to a contact in any country that doesnt try to surpress there ocupants and let the world know on REDDIT.

  7. I’m just glad they’re managing to find ways around the censors and not giving up.

    Also, congrats on making it to the front page of reddit.

  8. I'm just glad they're managing to find ways around the censors and not giving up.

    Also, congrats on making it to the front page of reddit.

  9. I question your motives for writing this article. I am a white Canadian and I find it amazing how you praise Chinese writers and then bash the Iran as a whole.

    • Bash Iran as a whole? You clearly haven’t read the article properly. The text says that consequence of blogging in Iran can be much more serious. There’s no death penalty in China at least.

    • I’m NOT bashing the Iranian people – I am criticising the Iranian government with their intentions to pass this law to execute bloggers who write things that the Iranian government doesn’t like.

      I have absolutely nothing against the Iranian people. In fact I keep in infrequent touch with two Iranian bloggers and they are very nice people.

  10. I question your motives for writing this article. I am a white Canadian and I find it amazing how you praise Chinese writers and then bash the Iran as a whole.

    • Bash Iran as a whole? You clearly haven't read the article properly. The text says that consequence of blogging in Iran can be much more serious. There's no death penalty in China at least.

    • I'm NOT bashing the Iranian people – I am criticising the Iranian government with their intentions to pass this law to execute bloggers who write things that the Iranian government doesn't like.

      I have absolutely nothing against the Iranian people. In fact I keep in infrequent touch with two Iranian bloggers and they are very nice people.

  11. This is yet another inventive way to get out a message and passed the censors, I am a westerner living here and my posts are also scrutinised, I even had the law come round to my house twice recently to make sure I was a foreigner and that all my papers were in order, which of course they are. The reason was I made a post on WAPO about whether or not advertisers would pull out of the Olympics, I said they wouldn’t because they where only interested in making money, the idiot censor thought I was slagging off China, by saying the Chinese were only interested in making money, and he had the law pay may a visit, but you will be dragged off to an unknown place if you cross the line here, this is all part of the Chinese governments new policy of openness, as promised when the country won the right to host the lympics, read that with your tongue firmly planted in your cheek.

    • thats pretty scary. the new openess of china seems to be more closed than the older policy!

  12. This is yet another inventive way to get out a message and passed the censors, I am a westerner living here and my posts are also scrutinised, I even had the law come round to my house twice recently to make sure I was a foreigner and that all my papers were in order, which of course they are. The reason was I made a post on WAPO about whether or not advertisers would pull out of the Olympics, I said they wouldn’t because they where only interested in making money, the idiot censor thought I was slagging off China, by saying the Chinese were only interested in making money, and he had the law pay may a visit, but you will be dragged off to an unknown place if you cross the line here, this is all part of the Chinese governments new policy of openness, as promised when the country won the right to host the lympics, read that with your tongue firmly planted in your cheek.

    • thats pretty scary. the new openess of china seems to be more closed than the older policy!

  13. Yeah this is a biased article. 2 oppressive countries, Chinese writers get praised, Iran gets bash?

    How about praising both writers, since the Iran gov’t is apparently killing writers as well.

    • To repeat my earlier comment, I am NOT bashing the Iranian people, only the Iranian government. I have the highest respect for the Iranian people and the highest admiration for Iranian bloggers.

  14. Yeah this is a biased article. 2 oppressive countries, Chinese writers get praised, Iran gets bash?

    How about praising both writers, since the Iran gov't is apparently killing writers as well.

    • To repeat my earlier comment, I am NOT bashing the Iranian people, only the Iranian government. I have the highest respect for the Iranian people and the highest admiration for Iranian bloggers.

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  16. It is not upside down. It is like this.

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  17. LOL.. you think china’s censorship is bad? Go blog about car bombings and I’ll bet DHS will have you on a gulf-stream jet direct to Egypt for some one-on-one water-boarding with their “contractors”.

    • there sure is enough criticism abt bush and his cronies. cant think of any other country like china though which is getting advanced, is enormously powerful, getting richer, and is getting worse by the day in state policing

    • I think you grossly exaggerate. You have something called the “Constitution of the United States” and “freedom of speech”. You can say what you want (within reason of course) and you won’t go to jail for it. Places like China and Iran have no such freedom of speech protections.

      Do you honestly see the United States Congress debating whether to have a death penalty for bloggers? I don’t think so. If that day ever comes, then your constitution really isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

  18. LOL.. you think china's censorship is bad? Go blog about car bombings and I'll bet DHS will have you on a gulf-stream jet direct to Egypt for some one-on-one water-boarding with their "contractors".

    • there sure is enough criticism abt bush and his cronies. cant think of any other country like china though which is getting advanced, is enormously powerful, getting richer, and is getting worse by the day in state policing

    • I think you grossly exaggerate. You have something called the "Constitution of the United States" and "freedom of speech". You can say what you want (within reason of course) and you won't go to jail for it. Places like China and Iran have no such freedom of speech protections.

      Do you honestly see the United States Congress debating whether to have a death penalty for bloggers? I don't think so. If that day ever comes, then your constitution really isn't worth the paper it's written on.

  19. nice to have freedoom of speech like us and some other country in my country if we are to criticized “federal government” we might end up in jail…

    can’t give opinion at all…

  20. nice to have freedoom of speech like us and some other country in my country if we are to criticized "federal government" we might end up in jail…

    can't give opinion at all…

  21. “We take our freedoms for granted because they’ve always been there.”

    They haven’t always been there. Our ancestors fought for a long time to get those freedoms.

  22. "We take our freedoms for granted because they’ve always been there."

    They haven't always been there. Our ancestors fought for a long time to get those freedoms.

  23. dude, i feel the reason of this entire article is nothing more than just bashing Iran. You’re boasting abt freedom of speech in the west. are you kidding me? try posting something having sympathy to ppl the western governments dislike, then we’ll see if you dont have to worry abt agencies knocking on ur door the nxt morning. a useless article, you’re jst creating issues for those poor Chinese bloggers by dragging them to the spotlight.

    • The Iranian government wants to execute bloggers and you’re criticising ME for bashing THEM? Well excuse me for a moment while I draft my apology to Mr Ahmadinejad. I’ll be right back – dude.

      And as for “dragging the Chinese bloggers into the spotlight”, I hardly think I have done that. I merely linked to and reported on a news report in the Wall Street Journal which is obviously a much bigger and much more influential publication than Geeks Are Sexy. So if you want to accuse anyone of dragging Chinese bloggers into the spotlight, call up the Wall Street Journal and ask for the managing editor.

      • Wow talk about blowing something out of proportion… BIG TIME! I am going to chalk this one up to a bad Google Translation from English to Iranian? Or just some people looking to argue and push their personal agendas.

        Mark – excellent post, very informative and lets me thank my lucky stars that I live in the good old US of A. As for putting the Chinese bloggers in the spot light they are already there and more stories about it might open the right peoples eyes.

        Oh and I would LOVE to see a copy of that apology :)

  24. dude, i feel the reason of this entire article is nothing more than just bashing Iran. You're boasting abt freedom of speech in the west. are you kidding me? try posting something having sympathy to ppl the western governments dislike, then we'll see if you dont have to worry abt agencies knocking on ur door the nxt morning. a useless article, you're jst creating issues for those poor Chinese bloggers by dragging them to the spotlight.

    • The Iranian government wants to execute bloggers and you're criticising ME for bashing THEM? Well excuse me for a moment while I draft my apology to Mr Ahmadinejad. I'll be right back – dude.

      And as for "dragging the Chinese bloggers into the spotlight", I hardly think I have done that. I merely linked to and reported on a news report in the Wall Street Journal which is obviously a much bigger and much more influential publication than Geeks Are Sexy. So if you want to accuse anyone of dragging Chinese bloggers into the spotlight, call up the Wall Street Journal and ask for the managing editor.

      • Wow talk about blowing something out of proportion… BIG TIME! I am going to chalk this one up to a bad Google Translation from English to Iranian? Or just some people looking to argue and push their personal agendas.

        Mark – excellent post, very informative and lets me thank my lucky stars that I live in the good old US of A. As for putting the Chinese bloggers in the spot light they are already there and more stories about it might open the right peoples eyes.

        Oh and I would LOVE to see a copy of that apology :)

  25. I think it is admirable that people want to share their experiences with the world, despite being in a country that does censor which websites people can access and what people can say/do.

    Mark, I do not think you are bashing Iran at all. Some people just jump on one word or sentence and try to make it fit their idea that “everyone” “hates” whatever it is that they “love.”

    Cheers!
    Ellie

  26. I think it is admirable that people want to share their experiences with the world, despite being in a country that does censor which websites people can access and what people can say/do.

    Mark, I do not think you are bashing Iran at all. Some people just jump on one word or sentence and try to make it fit their idea that "everyone" "hates" whatever it is that they "love."

    Cheers!

    Ellie

  27. Honestly, I love political debates like this because the ignorance and arrogance of people is so funny, but sad at the same time. Maybe I’m the idiot, but I think Mark is actually protecting the the people of Iran and making comments on the government.

    Just because the phrases “I love the Iranian people” or “Iranians are so cool” aren’t in there it doesn’t mean there’s bashing.

    The problem is this. Personally I couldn’t care less if you’re from Iran, China, Germany or the US, an idiot’s an idiot everywhere. Now every second person will tell me that I’m saying Chinese, Germans and Americans are idiots, when I am saying no such thing.

    I suggest you people read what Mark is saying and try to understand it before making comments like this.

  28. Honestly, I love political debates like this because the ignorance and arrogance of people is so funny, but sad at the same time. Maybe I'm the idiot, but I think Mark is actually protecting the the people of Iran and making comments on the government.

    Just because the phrases "I love the Iranian people" or "Iranians are so cool" aren't in there it doesn't mean there's bashing.

    The problem is this. Personally I couldn't care less if you're from Iran, China, Germany or the US, an idiot's an idiot everywhere. Now every second person will tell me that I'm saying Chinese, Germans and Americans are idiots, when I am saying no such thing.

    I suggest you people read what Mark is saying and try to understand it before making comments like this.