A Go match between the world’s top player, Ke Jie, and Google’s AlphaGo that took place this week was censored by authorities, reports Quartz.
The AI beat Ke Jie in yet another match today, securing a win in the three-part match.
Three journalists have reported receiving verbal directives barring their news organisations from broadcasting the match — as well as the Go and AI summit held in Wuzhen, east China.
One journalist reported being barred from even mentioning Google’s name while reporting on the event, while another said that while they could mention Google, they were barred from writing about Google’s products.
A leaked copy of a government directive was also posted on California-based China Digital Times, a website that monitors censorship in China. “No website, without exception, may carry a livestream,” the directive said. “If one has been announced in advance, please immediately withdraw it.”
The match was not allowed to be broadcast in any form — including liveblogging, live photos and video streams, or even on personal social media accounts, the directive added.
Staff who were already sent to Wuzhen were recalled, according to a video editor who spoke to Quartz about the ban.
Go fans were really not pleased on Weibo:
“I’m watching the replay. AlphaGo has certainly evolved… when it was matched against Lee Sedol, AlphaGo was probably not Ke Jie’s match. But the lack of a livestream really makes it hard for Go fans,” said a user.
“I don’t understand why they won’t livestream this domestically. Was watching this on bilibili when they cut the stream. What won’t you show others? I had to go to YouTube, damn,” said another user.
“Why won’t you allow for a livestream of the AlphaGo and Ke Jie match? It isn’t coming at a sensitive time, no?” a third user asked.
“Does anyone with authority know why they won’t let us watch the livestream? Apparently relevant departments requested for the livestream to not be broadcast domestically, and the broadcast which was advertised in April on CCTV5 (China Central Television’s sports channel) was cut and replaced with a live broadcast of basketball.” said a fourth user. “You could watch it on YouTube, and many sites have pulled footage off there, but they’ve been cut in the middle of the game.”
The livestream’s ban is the latest development in a longstanding feud between China and Google, after a drastic fallout in 2010 when the company detected a series of cyberattacks on other U.S. companies.
Google has refused to abide by Chinese censorship rules, but the company has made inroads beyond the Great Firewall — Google Translate was made available in the country in March this year.
Government officials have also indicated a willingness to allow some Google services, like Google Scholar and other services that do not involve “sensitive” information, back into the country.