Russia-Ukraine jokes hit social media wall in China

The move to curb inappropriate remarks related to the conflict has gained a lot of support among netizens and media organizations.



March 1, 2022

BEIJING – Platforms crack down on denigrating remarks online made by some Chinese

Chinese social media platforms are moving to crack down on inappropriate remarks in regard to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, such as denigrating jokes made by some netizens.

Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, along with Douyin, a short-video platform known as TikTok overseas, and the WeChat social media app all reiterated management rules over the weekend, calling for objective and serious discussions on such a weighty topic.

Meanwhile, Chinese researchers tracking the spread of information have warned the public that some overseas anti-China individuals and organizations have been deliberately making use of and playing up inappropriate comments made by some Chinese netizens to tarnish the nation’s global image.

As the Russia-Ukraine crisis escalates, many Chinese netizens are closely following the situation and discussing it online. But Sina Weibo said a very small number of netizens have made inappropriate comments, including encouraging confrontations and making jokes about welcoming beautiful Ukrainian women to China.

Since Friday, the platform has deleted around 1,400 pieces of offensive content and punished the users of 262 accounts. Punishments ranged from suspending accounts for seven days to permanent bans.

Douyin has detected and removed 6,400 improper short videos and terminated more than 1,600 livestreaming broadcasts, it said.

On Saturday, WeChat called for objective and rational discussions about the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

The move to curb inappropriate remarks related to the issue has gained a lot of support among Chinese netizens and media organizations.

“It is shameful and immoral to treat these issues as a joke. I fully support banning such accounts,” one netizen said.

Zhao Zhanling, a legal adviser for the Internet Society of China, said given the huge number of netizens, it is inevitable that some individuals will make irresponsible comments on hot topics, since such acts don’t bear any legal consequences. But it is necessary to continue to advocate proper discussion and guide people to speak sensibly, he said.

Xiao Wanning, an associate professor at Guiyang University and a scholar on Ukraine issues, said people should view the issue in a healthy way.

“For local people, no one is on the winning side in the course of such a crisis, and they need our human care even more,” he said.

Although inappropriate comments about the Russia-Ukraine crisis make up a small portion of the discussions on Chinese social media, they have been translated and hyped up by some anti-China forces, according to the China Cross-Strait Academy, a private think tank that includes young scholars from both sides of the Taiwan Straits.

Lei Xiying, an expert at the academy, said denigrating jokes have been posted online by people from all over the world, not just in China. Yet, such remarks by some Chinese netizens have sparked unusually heated discussions on social media platforms overseas.

He said the academy tracked down the source of such remarks and found they were first collected by an overseas Twitter user, @MeMeTaiWan, and were then retweeted by another Twitter user, @Karwan70446933, saying “Chinese are mocking, discriminating against Ukrainian women”.

The tweets of the two accounts did not gain much attention, garnering about 200 reposts. But then a news platform called SupChina used them and published an article with the headline “Some Chinese men express their horniness for potential Ukrainian refugees, to the disgust of netizens”.

Some Chinese students in Ukraine said they have encountered hostility and anti-Chinese sentiment from residents for a number of reasons, including the spread of such online posts, Global Times reported.

“MeMeTaiWan and Karwan70446933, as well as SupChina, are the initiators,” Lei said. He said MeMeTaiWan is a Taiwan-related account, while SupChina was founded in 2015 and is based in New York.

“It was under this ‘cooperation’of Taiwan-related anti-China forces, and the Chinese mainland public opinion that these ‘vulgarities against Ukraine’ have become a negative trending topic,” Lei said.

Sina Weibo said, “In today’s world, what each person says and does (about such a weighty topic) somehow represents the country’s image, and we have the responsibility and obligation to help maintain a sound environment on social media.”

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