China's Internet archives are disappearing fast, and historical articles such as Jack Ma are no longer searchable China's Internet archives are disappearing fast, and historical articles such as Jack Ma are no longer searchable

China's Internet archives are disappearing fast, and historical articles such as Jack Ma are no longer searchable

China's Internet archives are disappearing fast, and historical articles such as Jack Ma are no longer searchable

On Wednesday night, an article titled "The Chinese Internet is Accelerating its Collapse" went viral online, sparking discussion among netizens. The original author of the article, He Jiayan, wrote in an article that if we search for the word "Jack Ma" on Baidu and set the time to 1998 to 2005, how many pieces of information can be found? Is it 100 million, 10 million, or 1 million? The answer is one piece of information. Clicking on it to see that the article was published in 2021, which does not fall within the time period specified above.

In other words, if netizens want to obtain original information about Jack Ma’s experience, reports, speeches, and his development history around 2000, it is almost impossible. The author said that he has tested that the valid information searched on Bing or Google is not much different from Baidu, slightly more than Baidu, but only in the single digit. Most of them are invalid information with disordered time. Not only Jack Ma, but also Ma Huateng, Lei Jun, Ren Zhengfei, etc., even Luo Yonghao and Sister Furong, who were popular at that time, or Jay Chou and Li Yuchun, who were once popular all over the Internet, the results are the same.

The reporter searched online for the works of constitutional scholars such as Liu Junning who were active on the Chinese Internet at the time, but found nothing.

A retired staff member surnamed Zhang from a university in Guizhou told this station that ideological articles published by students on campus forums were deleted five or six years ago. She said: "I remember that the National Education Commission issued a notice to the whole country, which roughly meant that no critical articles could appear on the Internet. As an important battlefield, the campus must promote the main theme. The campus forum is not a place outside the law. All articles will be deleted and the comment area will be closed."

Official media reports on charitable organizations have disappeared

Lu Jun, co-founder of the Beijing Yirenping Center, a non-governmental charity organization, told Radio Free Asia on Thursday that he also discovered that the organization's data stored on the Internet no longer exists: "Based on my 20 years of experience in charity, I have long discovered that the charity law and anti-discrimination actions we did in the early years were reported by the mainstream domestic media and even the official media, and many official websites reposted them. But today, when I went to the relevant websites to look for relevant reports, there was no trace of them."

Lu Jun believes that the disappearance of many cases of their public welfare activities was related to Internet censorship. He said: "The loss of Internet information is a big problem and a common phenomenon. But when we talk about the loss of simplified Chinese information, it is a particularly distinctive Chinese characteristic. This is because the Chinese Communist Party plays an important role in information control and Internet censorship."

The article "The Chinese Internet is Accelerating its Collapse" revealed that almost all the Chinese websites that were once popular in that era, such as NetEase, Sohu, campus BBS, Xici Hutong, Kaidi Maoyan, Tianya Forum, Xiaonei.com (Renren.com), Sina Blog, Baidu Tieba, and a large number of personal websites, have completely disappeared before a certain year, and even most websites have lost all information from all years. The only exception is Sina.com, where some information from more than ten years ago can still be found, but it is also a very small number of pieces. More than 99.9999% of the other content has disappeared.

In this regard, Chongqing scholar Mr. Wang told our station that the social atmosphere more than ten years ago was more relaxed than it is now. Many articles at that time were about exploring history, restoring the truth, and criticizing current ills, but they have become history. He said: "Articles from more than ten years ago are likely to cause trouble now. Many domestic media act under the leadership of the party, so deletion is inevitable."

The web-devouring monster devours articles in five- and ten-year increments

The article warns that "no one is aware of a serious problem: the Chinese Internet is collapsing rapidly, and the Chinese Internet content before the emergence of mobile Internet has almost disappeared." In the past two years, the original materials available online have been decreasing at a cliff-like rate every year. Previously, you could still see some original reports, but then they gradually disappeared; previously, you could still find the protagonist's speeches or articles they wrote, but then they gradually disappeared; previously, you could still see many interviews or conversation videos, but then they gradually disappeared.

"It seems that there is a monster that devours web pages. It follows the timeline of history, from the past to the present, first in small bites, then in large gulps, swallowing up all the content on the Chinese Internet in units of five or ten years."

Diversification of websites during the Hu Jintao era

Taiwanese scholar Zeng Jianyuan told our station that the phenomenon of original Internet information "disappearing" has also occurred in Taiwan, mostly due to changes in the business environment. However, in China, online speech is strictly controlled: "In mainland China, there was an era of freedom and diversity. For example, I used to browse the Century China website frequently. That was during the Hu Jintao era, and I often submitted articles to Century China. Now there is no trace of information at all. Now no one knows that there was a Century China website in mainland China. At that time, cultural figures were transnational, and that was the common memory of cultural figures."

The rapid disappearance of historical articles and information on the Chinese Internet is due to economic reasons, such as changes in business methods or inability to operate, which lead to the closure of websites. Another reason is regulation. The article analyzes: The regulation of Internet information is a process from nothing to something, from lenient to strict, and from strict to stricter. Content that could exist legally in the past no longer meets regulatory requirements; or content that could exist in the gray area in the past was later defined as black. These contents will be directly "clicked" off.

Feng Chongyi, a professor at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia, said in an interview with this station that the above phenomenon is indeed terrifying and horrifying, and it has had a devastating impact on the Chinese people's understanding of a period of history: "It is really horrifying, but I think the reason lies in the root of the system. Whether it is due to economic or political considerations. From a political perspective, the gray in the past has now turned black. Now there is more surveillance, anti-espionage laws, and other laws are now numerous. Operators are overwhelmed and destroy information."

Peking University Web Information Museum is no longer accessible

On January 18, 2007, Peking University News reported that the "China Web Information Museum" (http://www.infomall.cn), developed and built by the Peking University Network Laboratory, has officially crossed its 5th anniversary. With a scale of storing 2.5 billion historical web pages from millions of websites, it involves millions of websites. Users can check the different versions and web pages of each website that have appeared in the past five years on the "China Web Information Museum". However, on Thursday this week, the reporter was unable to log in to the China Information Museum, and the page displayed "Cannot access this website".

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