The New York Times is reporting, in all seriousness, that the Chinese government is monitoring cell phone calls and terminating conversations in which someone uses the word “protest” (in English!). This is based on two anecdotes in which the cell phone calls were dropped after the word was used.
This, of course, is complete nonsense. I’m sure the Chinese despots wish they could monitor every call in their country, and detect keywords from speech in real time. Not even the NSA can do that. To extrapolate such a fantastic capability from just two anecdotes is stunningly ignorant.
If the sheer impossibility of the claim weren’t evidence enough, the Shanghai Scrap blog ran the experiment and confirmed it to be nonsense. Apparently that minimal level of fact-checking was beyond the New York Times.
Ah, but it’s worse than that. The dateline for the story is Beijing, which means they had to have at least one reporter working on the story from Beijing. His name is Jonathan Ansfield. (You won’t find it on the byline, it appears in the very last line of the story.) Anfield confirmed to Shanghai Scrap that the story was nonsense, but “regrettably his input on the story made little difference.”