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China's 'Twitter' appears to be censoring content about food shortages in Shanghai amid Covid lockdown

Business Insider US
Many Shanghai residents have been struggling to obtain groceries amid the city's COVID-19 lockdown.
  • Weibo users used the hashtag "buying groceries in Shanghai" to voice their frustrations about obtaining food items.
  • As of Friday, users could no longer search for posts related to the hashtag on the Twitter-like platform.
  • Authorities in China have been clamping down on "misleading" online posts about Shanghai's Covid-19 lockdown.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

As residents in the locked-down city of Shanghai struggle to obtain groceries, China's Twitter-like Weibo platform appears to have censored content linked to the city's food crisis.

Searches for the popular hashtag "buying groceries in Shanghai" have been blocked, with users receiving a message that "no results can be found" when they attempted to do so.

It is unclear when the blocking of searches began, but a user's Weibo post about it last Friday was widely circulated, drawing more than 133,000 likes and 34,000 reposts.

"Good news! The problem of 'buying groceries in Shanghai' has been completely solved," the user wrote, alongside a screenshot of a "no results" search page.

Below, thousands of users left seemingly sarcastic comments concerning the Chinese government's "speed" and "efficiency" in dealing with problems. "Well done China, there's really nothing we can't solve," a user wrote. 

Weibo did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Shanghai, a financial hub of 26 million residents, has been placed under a strict and indefinite lockdown amid a surge of Covid-19 cases. With restrictions banning residents from leaving their homes to buy essential items, people across the city have said they are running out of food.

The hashtag "buying groceries in Shanghai" had been a popular avenue for users to share tips on how to secure food supplies or exchange ideas on how to prolong the lifespan of their groceries.

Users were also adding the hashtag to their Weibo posts complaining about the difficulties they faced in ordering groceries, amid reports of people waking up in the wee hours of the morning to secure supermarket delivery slots.

Despite the hashtag's removal, other similar hashtags such as "scrambling for food in Shanghai" and "the anxiety over securing food in Shanghai" appear to still be working as of Monday. Residents have also set up support groups on the WeChat messaging app so they can place bulk orders to secure groceries.

China has been clamping down on what the authorities have labeled as "misleading" online information regarding how Shanghai is handling the lockdown.

On Friday, city officials refuted rumors about the authorities placing restrictions on group purchases of groceries. They also noted that they were working with the police to uncover the parties responsible for spreading such information.

Two weeks ago, social media giant Tencent, which owns WeChat, reportedly removed two trending videos that appeared to show residents in a Shanghai housing estate protesting against the city's handling of the lockdown, per Bloomberg.

Chinese health officials have stood by what they call a "dynamic" "zero-Covid" policy, which entails rapid lockdowns, mass testing, and travel restrictions whenever clusters of cases emerge.

According to the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, the city reported 25,173 asymptomatic Covid cases and 914 symptomatic cases on Sunday.


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