Chinese companies are outsourcing the censorship burden to third parties. The constant reviewing and blocking of content has to be done by humans; algorithms wouldn’t be able to catch everything.

These “professional censors” — before they can start spending their days taking content down — have to be introduced to China’s forbidden history (think of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown):

Now, after training, he knows what to look for — and what to block. He spends his hours scanning online content on behalf of Chinese media companies looking for anything that will provoke the government’s wrath. He knows how to spot code words that obliquely refer to Chinese leaders and scandals, or the memes that touch on subjects the Chinese government doesn’t want people to read about.

The whole environment is quite dystopic:

The screen saver on each computer is the same: photos and names of current and past members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the Communist Party’s top leadership. Workers must memorize those faces: Only government-owned websites and specially approved political blogs — a group on what’s called a whitelist — are allowed to post photos of top leaders.

Un reporter della BBC ha deciso di testare l’efficienza dell’infrastruttura di sorveglianza del governo cinese — dopo essersi fatto registrare nel database (che contiene tutti i cittadini), è andato a spasso per Guiyang lasciando che la polizia prima o poi lo identificasse tramite le telecamere sparse per la città. In Cina ci sono 170 milioni di CCTV; il governo ha intenzione di installarne altre 400 milioni nel corso dei prossimi tre anni.

Ci sono voluti meno di sette minuti, per trovarlo.

Shanghai ha lanciato un’app inquietante che assegna automaticamente un voto di comportamento ai cittadini, calcolato in base ai dati che ha aggregato, raccolti dal governo:

Here’s how the app works: You sign up using your national ID number. The app uses facial recognition software to locate troves of your personal data collected by the government, and 24 hours later, you’re given one of three “public credit” scores — very good, good, or bad.

Shao says Honest Shanghai draws on up to 3,000 items of information collected from nearly 100 government entities to determine an individual’s public credit score.

Una cosa simile è pericolosa, soprattutto se gli algoritmi che prendono queste decisioni restano opachi al cittadino.

Il New York Times esplora l’entità delle operazioni di Apple in Cina – e il coinvolgimento del governo cinese per aiutare Foxconn, con sovvenzioni e infrastruttura, a mettere in piedi la più grande fabbrica di iPhone al mondo:

It all centers on Zhengzhou, a city of six million people in an impoverished region of China. Running at full tilt, the factory here, owned and operated by Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn, can produce 500,000 iPhones a day. Locals now refer to Zhengzhou as “iPhone City.”

The local government has proved instrumental, doling out more than $1.5 billion to Foxconn to build large sections of the factory and nearby employee housing. It paved roads and built power plants.

It helps cover continuing energy and transportation costs for the operation. It recruits workers for the assembly line. It pays bonuses to the factory for meeting export targets.

Un documentario di WIRED su Shenzhen, per questa domenica (merita, guardatelo).

We examine the unique manufacturing ecosystem that has emerged, gaining access to the world’s leading hardware-prototyping culture whilst challenging misconceptions from the west. The film looks at how the evolution of “Shanzhai” – or copycat manufacturing – has transformed traditional models of business, distribution and innovation, and asks what the rest of the world can learn from this so-called “Silicon Valley of hardware”.