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Shutterstock censors sensitive search terms for China

Shutterstock censors sensitive search terms for China
A Shutterstock spokesperson confirmed to The Intercept that a censorship feature is currently active. (Picture: Shutterstock)

US-based stock image site Shutterstock is censoring search terms that are deemed sensitive by the Chinese government. The keyword blacklist, first reported by The Intercept, came into effect last month and applies to users with a mainland China IP address.

We tested search terms such as “President Xi,” “Chairman Mao,” “Taiwan flag,” “dictator,” “yellow umbrella,” and “umbrella movement”. None of them yield any results. The last two terms refer to the pro-democracy protests that gripped Hong Kong for nearly three months in 2014.

A Shutterstock spokesperson told The Intercept that the company is “bound to local laws.” The system reportedly went into effect last month, and Shutterstock was previously blocked by the Great Firewall.

In September, Abacus found that Apple’s GIF search function also won’t get results for certain search terms, such as “China,” “Chinese,” “Xinjiang” or “Falun Gong.” Bizarrely, we could still find images related to “Tiananmen” and “Tibet.” Apple declined to comment.

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