Database Entry: Ghost World
Religious Persecution Surveillance Use of technology

Ghost World

April 01, 2019
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Not using social media could also court suspicion. So could attempting to destroy a SIM card, or not carrying a smartphone. Unsure how to avoid detention when the crackdown began, some Uyghurs buried old phones in the desert. Others hid little baggies of used SIM cards in the branches of trees, or put SD cards containing Islamic texts and teachings in dumplings and froze them, hoping they could eventually be recovered. Others gave up on preserving Islamic knowledge and burned data cards in secret. Simply throwing digital devices into the garbage was not an option; Uyghurs feared the devices would be recovered by the police and traced back to the user. Even proscribed content that was deleted before 2017 —when the Public Security Bureau operationalized software that uses artificial intelligence to scour millions of social media posts per day for religious imagery—can reportedly be unearthed.

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