Why is Xiaomi accused of “censorship”?

Xiaomi phones would embed a censorship tool that would be “remotely activatable at any time,” claims the Lithuanian government. Back on a political-media runaway.

In a report dated late August 2021, the Lithuanian organization in charge of national cybersecurity accuses Xiaomi of embedding a censorship tool on its smartphones. More specifically, Xiaomi phones sold in Europe would have a module capable of blocking certain controversial content, using a list of keywords present on the phone. A module which would be deactivated by default with us, but which could be activated at “any time», Affirm the Lithuanian authorities.

We recommend that you do not buy new Chinese phones and get rid of the ones you have already purchased as soon as possibleThe Deputy Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Lithuania told Reuters. So should you immediately throw away your phone?

A tool of censorship cut out for China

If we trust the report published by the Lithuanian authorities, we learn that several system applications (including the internet browser or the theme management tool) “regularly download a MiAdBlacklistConfig configuration file from a server in Singapore.

Xiaomi phones would download a file containing “banned” terms, according to Lithuania. This file would block the appearance of certain ads or certain web results // Source: NKSC

This file would contain, according to the latest news, a list of 449 “titles, names and other information about various religious, political and social movement groups“. Among the words listed, we find terms having to do with the political situation in Tibet, the independence of Taiwan or the pro-democracy movements. Indices which suggest that this module was designed for smartphones sold in China, in order to comply with the wishes of the local government.

As the Lithuanian authorities write, this tool’s mission is to “filter media content displayed on the device“. It would therefore seem that censorship does not directly affect communications between people, but rather advertising and other external content loaded by the telephone. The situation is not ideal, however, since if the browser hides content corresponding to these words, then a whole part of the web is censored.

Xiaomi defends itself

Faced with the accusations of the Lithuanian government, which considers that this tool poses a problem for “all countries that use Xiaomi equipment», The manufacturer defends himself.

In a statement, the company denies en bloc and specifies that “Xiaomi devices do not censor communications to or from its users. “The company adds that it”has never restricted or blocked, and never will, the habits of users of its smartphones, such as searches, calls, surfing the internet or the use of third-party communication software.

The company claims to comply with the GDPR to the letter and not to infringe the rights of users. A fairly agreed speech that does not go into much technical detail, while it is precisely there that the case would need clarification. As it stands, everyone can believe the builder or not.

This clash between the Lithuanian authorities and China comes at a complicated geopolitical moment. The two countries are at the heart of a controversy, because Lithuania would have authorized an ambassador to open, on its soil, an embassy on behalf of Taiwan. What irritates the Chinese government, which claims political control of the region.

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