China’s largest social network Weibo, a microblogging site designed along the lines of Twitter and Facebook, has reportedly blocked mentions of popular TV show host John Oliver. This comes after Oliver heavily criticized the Chinese President for his moves to establish himself in absolute power, as well as his attempts to censor free speech and human rights violations under the current establishment.
British TV host John Oliver hosts ‘Last Week Tonight’, a talk and news-satire show on HBO that has gained popularity for its comedic take on major political issues. Oliver has, through his show, taken up political issues around the world, including in the United States and India. The show is not broadcast in China, but segments and clips from the show are easily available on YouTube. You can watch the controversial clip below.
While China blocks access to YouTube, the clips from the show are often shared on other networks. However, reportedly in order to prevent discourse on the criticism by John Oliver, Weibo has blocked any mentions of John Oliver altogether. The issue was first noticed by Inkstone, a publication affiliated to the South China Morning Post, when reporters realized that they could not post about John Oliver on Weibo.
There’s no firm word on whether the Chinese Government had any role in the censorship, but the administration is known to clamp down on any negative chatter on social media against the government. Strangely enough, China also blocks certain images of cartoon character Winnie the Pooh, because of the use of those images to block Xi Jinping due to a perceived resemblance.
China is known for heavy censorship, and blocks access to many social media and internet-based services in the country. Notably, you cannot access any Google or Facebook-run services in China officially, and Chinese users tend to prefer using local services from companies such as Weibo, Baidu and Tencent. All of the local companies are believed to be working under the regulations of the Chinese Government, which includes censorship and data sharing.