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Twitter and Facebook Barred Trump. China Is on His Side.

  • January 18, 2021

The government has strict rules regarding which social media accounts and websites can post articles and photos of leaders like Mr. Xi. Young censors spend much of their workdays blocking and deleting links that contain photos of the leaders, even if the content supports the government. In other words, ordinary Chinese don’t even have the right to post photos of Mr. Xi, much less criticize him.

Those who dare to criticize him face severe punishment. Ren Zhiqiang, a retired businessman and an influential social media personality, was silenced on Chinese online platforms in early 2016 after he criticized Mr. Xi’s directives that the Chinese news media should serve the party. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison last year after writing an essay that was critical of Mr. Xi’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Chinese internet companies conduct their own censorship, but they do so out of fear of what Beijing officials might do to them. Last February,, a news portal, was punished for running original content about the coronavirus outbreak. Under the Chinese regulations, these websites can’t produce original news content.

According to the national internet regulator, websites and regulators in December processed more than 13 million items deemed to be illegal and unhealthy, an 8 percent increase from a year earlier. Among them, six million were processed by Weibo.

For those reasons, many Chinese are dumbfounded by the idea that private companies such as Twitter and Facebook have the power to reject a sitting American president.

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“When Twitter banned Trump, it was a private platform refusing to serve the president,” a Weibo user called Xichuangsuiji wrote in trying to explain the distinction. “When Weibo bans you, it’s simply executing government guidelines to censor an individual’s speech.”

Some Chinese dissidents and liberal intellectuals oppose the bans because they suffered harsh censorship in China or because they support Mr. Trump, whom they see as tough on the Communist Party.

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