Amid a mortgage crisis in China, which has sparked protests and homebuyers threatening to boycott payments, social media companies have stepped up censorship; blocking messages, keywords and videos of demonstrations.
In China, social media companies are required to censor or remove content that “undermines social stability,” like the ongoing mortgage protests.
Searching the hashtag brings back a notice saying: “Due to related laws and rules, the topic page cannot be displayed.”
A protester from Henan province told Reuters that a video he uploaded on ByteDance-owned Douyin protesting the mortgage crisis was among the top trending at one point but is now unavailable.
Douyin also blocked a video showing homebuyers’ fingerprinted notices declaring a boycott of mortgage payments, according to screenshots obtained by Reuters. The TikTok-like platform said that the video “didn’t pass scrutiny.”
Another protester told Reuters that he was unable to share videos about the crisis via messaging app WeChat.
In an effort to contain the situation, local governments and regulators are trying to reassure protesters that the projects will be completed and that everything will be taken care of.
The censorship is not limited to social media. Analysts at a few securities and research firms were advised to not discuss the protests. Because of an “order from above, an employee at a developer was told by his boss that staff had been banned from commenting on the crisis.
The protests’ timing is not good for the Chinese Communist Party, which would prefer social stability ahead of the 20th Communist Party Congress, where the party’s leadership is expected to extend President Xi Jinping’s leadership to a third term.