China’s state-run Global Times on Thursday relayed a mocking “warm welcome” from Chinese social media users to former U.S. President Donald Trump, inviting him to join China’s heavily-censored Weibo microblogging platform now that he has filed a lawsuit against Facebook and Twitter.
Trump filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter, Google, and their respective CEOs over their censorship practices on Wednesday. Trump and his colitigants, the America First Policy Institute, invited Americans who have been deplatformed by big tech to join the case.
The Global Times observed that Trump is enormously popular on Weibo. Trump-related topics trended on Weibo over twice as often as any other public figure in 2020, and he is the only foreigner to appear on Weibo’s annual list of the most popular people – a list usually dominated by Chinese entertainers.
A Shanghai newspaper studied Internet search data in January 2021 and found Trump’s name was the most searched-for term in Chinese social media. The news of Trump’s lawsuit against Big Tech quickly racked up 40 million views on Weibo.
“Trending individuals on Weibo came only in three categories: epidemiologists, celebrities and Donald Trump,” the paper said, a humorous allusion to the three people who became trending topics most frequently last year: Trump, actor Wang Yibo, and Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the doctor who discovered the first SARS coronavirus in 2003.
Weibo ran a survey on Thursday and found 78 percent of the respondents hoped Trump would open a Weibo account. Comments posted to the survey pleaded with Trump to join the platform and make it his “new playground.”
“Please come! We will have so much fun!” said one commenter.
“Seriously, he should definitely consider joining Weibo in light of this much attention he receives from Weibo users. Nobody will steal his thunder,” suggested another.
The Global Times quoted a few of the unflattering nicknames Weibo users have for Trump, including Chuan Jianguo (“Trump Builds China”) and Dong Wang (a derogatory term for a man who claims to be a king and “knows everything”).
CNS News impishly noted that Weibo actually has more users than Twitter, which was Trump’s favorite communications platform before he was permanently banned from it, and that a few foreign politicians have dabbled in Weibo over the years, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who closed his account last year after Weibo and many other Chinese apps were banned by the Indian government.
Weibo, like all other communications platforms available to China’s captive citizens, is heavily censored by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Posts that displease or embarrass the Party are quickly hunted down and deleted. Algorithms relentlessly search Weibo posts for disfavored keywords and images, such as the infamous CCP jihad against Winnie the Pooh, whose image is often used to mock rotund dictator Xi Jinping.
Weibo’s software has been modified on orders from the Communist Party, ironically on the pretext that the platform was “interfering” with electronic communications and “disseminating illegal information,” when in fact its users were discussing topics the Communists did not want them to talk about.
Weibo is not shy about censoring and forcibly editing posts from foreign officials and embassies. Its censorship algorithms are so obnoxious that Chinese users have developed secret codes for getting past the filters and expressing forbidden ideas. Like other Chinese Internet services (and an unsettling number of services from free nations), Weibo also does a good deal of spying on its users, and their personal data has been breached and leaked online.