Approximately one year ago, when Covid-19 spread around the World, I had a fascinating conversation with one of my friends from China. She was very confused because her social media got full of posts with random emojis, ancient Chinese calligraphy, and what seemed to be Morse code. However, after reading some more posts, she understood what was going on. People came up with elaborated codes to spread a censored interview from Ai Fen, a doctor in Wuhan’s Hospital who talked about the coronavirus outbreak [1, 2].
Font: Abacus, South China Morning Post
I found it so witty how people could come up with new codes, and even rescue and integrate old communication methods to fight the censorship. Precisely, I think that this phenomenon is what Shannon Mattern is talking about when she writes about informal or shadow development in the article Deep Time of Media Infrastructure . When institutions are not providing, or — like in this case — are sabotaging the information, people need to improvise.
That is not the first time we can see new codes emerging to confuse the algorithms and avoid censorship. One example is women using Photoshop to protest against Instagram’s restrictions by displaying male nipples over their own .
Another example is the use of makeup to avoid the facial recognition to go unnoticed in front of the cameras. In the project CV Dazzle, they use fashion as camouflage . They claim that it is a concept and a strategy tailored to each face and technology, which I believe is related to the fact that only human labor can “sabotage” the infrastructure. Only people will be able to confront the structures and make a change.
Font: CV Dazzle
In conclusion, the fact is that every message, image, or video that we want to display nowadays is going through the filter of giant companies that are governed by arbitrary restrictions. However, it does not matter if a bot is using the latest technology such as facial recognition, or keyword detection, that people are going to find new codes to spread their message.
After all, knowledge is power.
 Abacus, South China Morning Post. Censored coronavirus news shows up again as emoji, Morse code and ancient Chinese. https://www.scmp.com/abacus
 .coda. Chinese citizens fight coronavirus censorship with emojis and ancient languages. https://www.codastory.com/disinformation/chinese-internet-users-fight-coronavirus-censorship/
 Shannon Mattern, Deep Time of Media infrastructure.
 The Daily Edge. Women are Photoshopping male nipples over their own to protest against Instagram censorship. https://www.dailyedge.ie/free-the-nipple-photoshopping-male-nipples-2206654-Jul2015/
 CV Dazzle. Computer Vision Dazzle Camouflage. https://cvdazzle.com
~ Alicia Romero