Instagram recently censored a post by an artist critical of the Chinese government. The anti-Beijing post was removed by the Facebook-owned social media platform, but death threats made against the artist remained uncensored. Instagram later restored the artwork, while Facebook claimed that the censorship had occurred due to “a mistake” by the company.
An artist and outspoken critic of the Chinese government, using the pseudonym Badiucao to protect his identity, had his anti-Beijing artwork removed by Instagram, according to a report by the Guardian.
Badiucao’s artwork — which depicted the former Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, mounting an emu and a kangaroo — was reportedly banned by Instagram. Badiucao lives and works in Australia.
The artwork critical of the Chinese government and communist leader responsible for the deaths of at least 45 million people had supposedly violated the platform’s “community standards.”
Badiucao later took to Twitter to point out that while his artwork had been censored, the Internet “trolls” sending him death threats were allowed to remain online, uncensored.
4/ This is the art got removed by @Instagram. It uses a classic China propaganda style to depict the China‘s threat and interference on Australia. Recently，many anti-democracy rally are organized by China’s nationalists against Hong Kong‘s protest and demand for freedom pic.twitter.com/FaPEaG6R3C
— 巴丢草 Badiucao (@badiucao) August 18, 2019
“Yesterday, Instagram notified me that one of my art was removed from it[‘s] platform for going against its guidelines,” said Badiucao in a tweet on Saturday. “However, in the mean time, Instagram has not addressed my [multiple reports] on death threats against me on its platform.”
The artist included a screenshot of a purported comment sent to him by a user on Instagram, which read, “you motherfuckers, I will kill you, cut down your head bitch.”
“Instagram’s violation on my free speech is unacceptable,” continued Badiucao. “This violation is not just happening to me but also to a lot of dissidents and people who dare to speak up against China’s bully[ing].”
“Instagram [fails to] address the constant death threats and online bully[ing] against me from trolls of China,” said the artist. “I have reported many times about this issue. But, it never got addressed, every time Instagram [says] the death threats I received do not violate its rules!”
Facebook, which owns Instagram, apparently decided to later restore Badiucao’s anti-Beijing artwork, writing to the artist, “It looks like we made a mistake and removed something you posted on Instagram that didn’t go against our Community Standards. We want to apologize and let you know that we’ve restored your content.”
Badiucao, who was born in Shanghai, but currently resides in Melbourne, Australia, had reportedly always been seen wearing a mask, but finally revealed his identity on June 4 — the 30-year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre — after his identity was compromised.
Consequently, the artist’s Hong Kong exhibition was canceled due to “safety concerns,” and Badiucao has since expressed that he feels unsafe, even while living in Melbourne.
“It’s dangerous to speak out against the Chinese government,” said Badiucao, according to the Guardian. “Since my identity was revealed, my life has changed a lot. I have been followed several times, once by four men, all wearing bluetooth earpieces, on a bus. I’ve been intimidated on the streets, or while I am traveling. I have suspicious cars parking outside my residence.”
The report added that Badiucao’s previous apartment building in Berlin — where he lived last year — was broken into, and his mailbox was raided.
The censorship — and later restoration — of Badiucao’s artwork arrives ahead of Twitter and Facebook announcing that the platforms are removing “inauthentic” accounts discovered to be operated from within the Chinese government.
The social media platforms say that the fake “state-backed” accounts that have been “deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.”