WeChatscope

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About

WeChatscope (beta version) is developed to collect data from a selected panel of WeChat public accounts. Following the approach of its sister project Weiboscope, WeChatscope aims to extend the systematic and scalable method of data collection and “big data” analytics to investigate WeChat public account for a better understanding into the role of the platform in content censorship, information distribution, user engagement, platform intervention, and connectivity enabled by the technology.

The system works like this. We select and create a panel of WeChat public accounts, which have been primarily making articles related to social affair, computationally monitor these public accounts each day to obtain new posts they published; The posts are stored in the database and are revisited to check if the posts are removed from the timeline. Last, the data are available for public access through public APIs. As of July 1, 2018, the panel consists of 2,000 WeChat public accounts.  

When you use the data of the WeChatscope beta version, please cite the following reference.

Fu KW & Yun T. (2018). Tracking Censorship of WeChat Public Accounts in China: A Computational Social Science’s Approach, Presented at the 2018 International Conference on Computational Social Science,12-15 July 2018, Evanston, Illinois, United States

We plan to launch the full version by the end of 2018.

See also:
What do Xi Jinping and Winnie the Pooh have in common? They’re both flagged by Chinese censors (by Shan Wong, Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard)
Weibo Whack-a-Mole: The Most-Censored Events on Chinese Social Media (by Fu KW, Huang C, Zhang K, ChinaFile)
「抱歉,此內容違反了《規定》」──2017年微博審查回顧 (傅景華、鍾慧敏, 端傳媒)

How to Start

Wechatscope APIs

Our APIs (application programming interfaces) allow you to obtain the past 7 days censored articles of WeChat public accounts for use in your own applications. If you are new to WeChatscope and want some help getting started with your research, here is the tutorial.

 

 

Method 1: Use our Base URL to search for records in past 7 days held by Wechatscope

1. Search our catalogue, using Base URL

http://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk:8000/update_weixin_public_pretty?days={number}
Note: Curly braces { } indicate required item

Example: Access to censored articles from the last 2 days
http://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk:8000/update_weixin_public_pretty?days=2

Example: Access to censored articles from the last 7 days
http://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk:8000/update_weixin_public_pretty?days=7

When you search Base URL you will get a list of records that match your search time period. They are the latest censored WeChat articles either blocked by Chinese censors or removed by the account holders that they are not accessible from the internet.

Unfortunately, we are not available to support full-text keyword search at the moment.

2. Understanding your search results

The display for search results is made up of a list of record descriptions, ranked in a chronological order. The format is as follows:

 

  1. “url”: URL address of the WeChat article
  2. “title”: Title of the article in original language
  3. “title_eng”: Title of the article in English (Google Translate)
  4. “nickname”: Name of the WeChat public account
  5. “created_at”: Publish date of the article
  6. “Archive”: Webpage archive file name for the use of html API (see below)
  7. “censored_date”: Censored date of the article
  8. “censored_msg”: Reason for censorship according to WeChat
  9. “update_date”: the latest record updated time

Method 2: Use R code

# update_weixin API ————————————————————

library(httr)
library(data.table)

# The URL of the update_weixin API
url_wxupdate <- ‘http://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk:8000/update_weixin_public?days=’

# Send API request: 2 = censored info in the past two days
ceninfo <- GET(url = paste0(url_wxupdate,2))

# Process content of the API request
ceninfo_content <- content(ceninfo)

# Convert the content to a dataframe
ceninfo_df <- rbindlist(ceninfo_content, fill=TRUE)

# ————————————————————————————-

How to view the censored articles?

You can view the articles by placing the {archive} of the article on the following link.

http://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk:8000/html?fn={archive}
Note: Curly braces { } indicate required item

Example:
http://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk:8000/html?fn=gh_a2c7ee2ac820_2018-06-15_2649207173_wCPEvKHmQk.y.tar.gz

Example:
http://wechatscope.jmsc.hku.hk:8000/html?fn=gh_14ef0e644b8f_2018-06-17_2652779492_A0MVGgOrLz.y.tar.gz

 

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Contact us

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WeChatscope
Journalism and Media Studies Centre
The University of Hong Kong
Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong

Acknowledgement:
This project is supported by the Open Technology Fund (No.: 1002-2017-023)

Have suggestions, ideas, or questions?
Email: wechatscope@gmail.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/wechatscope
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wechatscope/