In the early hours of Feb. 7, China’s powerful internet censors experienced an unfamiliar and deeply unsettling sensation.
The orders were among thousands of secret government directives and other documents that were reviewed by The New York Times and ProPublica.
They lay bare in extraordinary detail the systems that helped the Chinese authorities shape online opinion during the pandemic.
Though China makes no secret of its belief in rigid internet controls, the documents convey just how much behind-the-scenes effort is involved in maintaining a tight grip.
It is much more than simply flipping a switch to block certain unwelcome ideas, images or pieces of news.
China’s curbs on information about the outbreak started in early January, before the novel coronavirus had even been identified definitively, the documents show.
But the documents indicate that Chinese officials tried to steer the narrative not only to prevent panic and debunk damaging falsehoods domestically. »