The number of Chinese websites is shrinking and posts are being removed and censored, stoking fears about what happens when history is erased.

Chinese people know their country’s internet is different. There is no Google, YouTube, Facebook or Twitter. They use euphemisms online to communicate the things they are not supposed to mention. When their posts and accounts are censored, they accept it with resignation.

They live in a parallel online universe. They know it and even joke about it.

Now they are discovering that, beneath a facade bustling with short videos, livestreaming and e-commerce, their internet — and collective online memory — is disappearing in chunks.

post on WeChat on May 22 that was widely shared reported that nearly all information posted on Chinese news portals, blogs, forums, social media sites between 1995 and 2005 was no longer available.

“The Chinese internet is collapsing at an accelerating pace,” the headline said. Predictably, the post itself was soon censored.

Non-paywall link

  • Shard@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    Welcome to the Great Leap Forward 2.0

    This is a drop in the ocean compared to the centuries of lost physical artefacts and writings.

    • Piemanding@sh.itjust.works
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      1 month ago

      I guess it depends on what you consider artifacts. 7% of every human who has ever lived is alive today. You can say many of the things people have owned are lost and some might be valuable to someone in the future. So much of our lives are online. I wonder how much of it will survive 100 years.

      • JeffKerman1999@sopuli.xyz
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        1 month ago

        Hopefully not a lot. My guess is that onlyfans/pornhub and other assorted porn sites have been backup multiple times by multiple people. The rest of the internet is in the hands of the internet archive.

  • ms.lane@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    Reddit’s really no different in that regard.

    Thank Dog for the Lemmyverse.

  • zephyreks@lemmy.ml
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    1 month ago

    This is just… A poorly researched article. China’s GDP per capita in 1995 was $609. The shittiest computer of that era would’ve been around $1000, and most of the parts would’ve been imported from the US (which, at the time, was obscenely far ahead in the semiconductor game). On a somewhat related note, China joined the WTO in 2001.

    The NYT assumes that everywhere around the world had a computing renaissance in the late 90s… But not everywhere is as wealthy as the US. By the start of 1995, there were only 3000 Internet users in China. So… No shit, there’s not much available from 1995?

    Of course, by the end of 2005, China has 111 million users, but most of them were still consolidated on the main platforms (NetEase, Tencent’s QQ, Alibaba, Baidu, etc.). I did a cursory check of them, and there’s a ton of content from the 1995-2005 era up on them. Check for yourself.

    One important note: Baidu is a really terrible search engine. It doesn’t index everything, and even when it has something indexed sometimes it just won’t serve it because (presumably) it looks up in a cache of popular sites rather than doing a comprehensive lookup. In fact, Baidu’s shiftiness is a well-known joke in the Chinese internet community.

  • AdrianTheFrog@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    I would argue that the internet is probably the least permanent form of media as anything can instantly disappear at any time. Its interesting to see people suddenly realize the impermanence of the internet and I think it highlights why projects like the internet archive are so important.

  • AutoTL;DR@lemmings.worldB
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    1 month ago

    This is the best summary I could come up with:


    Now they are discovering that, beneath a facade bustling with short videos, livestreaming and e-commerce, their internet — and collective online memory — is disappearing in chunks.

    I also searched for Liu Chuanzhi, known as the godfather of Chinese entrepreneurs: He made headlines when his company, Lenovo, acquired IBM’s personal computer business in 2005.

    Internet publishers, especially news portals and social media platforms, have faced heightened pressure to censor as the country has made an authoritarian and nationalistic turn under Mr. Xi’s leadership.

    “Even though we tend to think of the internet as somewhat superficial,” said Ian Johnson, a longtime China correspondent and author, “without many of these sites and things, we lose parts of our collective memory.”

    In “Sparks,” a book by Mr. Johnson about brave historians in China who work underground, he cited the Internet Archive for Chinese online sources in the endnotes because, he said, he knew they would all eventually disappear.

    Mr. Johnson founded the China Unofficial Archives website, which seeks to preserve blogs, movies and documents outside the Chinese internet.


    The original article contains 1,267 words, the summary contains 175 words. Saved 86%. I’m a bot and I’m open source!

  • TechNerdWizard42@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    This is a global issue. Not a China issue. If anything, China has every page cached and stored if they ever wanted to restore access. The US does too, but only secretly.

    • Bernie_Sandals@lemmy.world
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      1 month ago

      I’m pretty sure this is happening in the US because of those pages no longer being profitable to run.

      There’s a big difference between that and losing chunks of the internet because of rampant censorship, something we aren’t experiencing in the West/US.

      • CanadaPlus@lemmy.sdf.org
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        1 month ago

        Yeah, and there’s people trying to save as much as possible. Unfortunately attrition of history is nothing new.

      • anticolonialist@lemmy.world
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        1 month ago

        I’ve got dead links/ bookmarks to pages from the hill, Wall Street journal, the guardian, and several other still functioning websites where information has been selectively censored or removed. And is not specifically an age thing, I have some bookmarks that are older than the dead links that are still functional on those same websites

        • Bernie_Sandals@lemmy.world
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          1 month ago

          The massive difference is that even if that’s true, it’d be on the corporations deciding to change narrative independently, not being forced to by the government.

          Outlets like the Guardian are certainly willing to piss off the U.S. government, they were literally one of the publishers of the Snowden files.

            • Bernie_Sandals@lemmy.world
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              1 month ago

              In the US, the government is just a figurehead for the wealthy elite.

              Odd that the country supposedly being ran by a figurehead for wealthy elites is infinitely better to live in for working class people, than the supposedly completely working class inspired “socialist” country.

              You never found it weird that the Chinese government cracks down harder on independent trade unionists than actual capitalists do here?

          • beardown@lemm.ee
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            1 month ago

            it’d be on the corporations deciding to change narrative independently, not being forced to by the government.

            That is incredibly naive

            • Bernie_Sandals@lemmy.world
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              1 month ago

              Yeah? Then give me evidence of a large campaign by the U.S government to force companies to change media narrative in the past 2 decades.

              Every time I’ve seen anything even close, the media companies have screamed bloody murder.

        • vaultdweller013@sh.itjust.works
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          1 month ago

          Were those links killed because of archieving or website changes? Cause ive encountered that in the past with random shit, using links on the nexus mod pages for example has a pretty good chance to be a dead link since nexus migrated their site some years ago. I can easily see a scenario where ya may kill certain pages and transfer the story to an archieve instead, especially if the title may be reused or something similar. “3 killed in fatal car crash on the 15” aint exactly a unique headline for example.