Cyber video chat
Obviously concerned that pictures of Liu Xiaobo in a hospital bed could become widely shared, or even iconic, the authorities demonstrated their ability to intervene mid-transit and many images of the activist never made it beyond individuals' phones.
"We found 74 images blocked on We Chat Moments, 26 blocked on group chat and 19 blocked on one-to-one chat," The Citizen Lab reported.
Programs are collections of instructions for manipulating data.
Data can exist in a variety of forms — as numbers or text on pieces of paper, as bits and bytes stored in electronic memory, or as facts stored in a person's mind.
"These are the first tests in which we have found evidence of image censorship on We Chat's one-to-one chat." The difference in numbers is directly connected to how large the public reach of each service is.
"The blocking of images on one-to-one chat shows an effort to restrict content across semi-public and private chat functions, demonstrating the sensitivity of Liu Xiaobo's death," the researchers noted.
When it came to Facebook's end-to-end encrypted Whats App messaging service, the government reacted by simply blocking the sending of any and all images and video – presumably by stopping all attachments from being delivered rather than cracking and inspecting conversations.
To be clear, we're told that censors were able to peer into private conversations on Chinese services, and strip out any banned material as it moved from person to person.
For foreign services, such as the encrypted Whats App, they were only able to block all large messages or simply firewall off whole systems in a ham-fisted way.
Concerned that his death could lead to political protest, Chinese censors went into overdrive, using keywords to try to remove any mention or discussion of Xiaobo from We Chat, Weibo, and other Chinese services.
A review of that censorship by the University of Toronto's The Citizen Lab revealed a depth of sophistication and hitherto unknown censorship capabilities.