Published on May 31st, 2012 | by Amy Edwards0
Introducing Weibo: The micro-blogging site that’s stirring things up in China
By Amy @BubbleJobs
If you’ve not heard of Weibo before then it’s time you got informed. First released by the Sina Corporation in 2009, Weibo is China’s answer to Twitter. Similar in style and substance to the world’s most famous micro-blogging site (which, along with Facebook is incidentally banned in China), Weibo allows internet users right across the country to keep up to date with the latest news and share their thoughts and opinions (albeit moderated opinions) with fellow users.
While both Twitter and Weibo stick to a 140-character rule, Weibo users can usually get more information and detail into each of their ‘tweets’ as each character can represent a word in Mandarin – this means they have the potential to create more detailed, more opinionated ‘tweets’ which are certainly making a big impression on the country.
With more than 250 million estimated users, it’s fair to say that Weibo has taken China by storm. Giving users a voice they’ve never had before, Weibo gives users a platform to share their opinions and have their say on the issues that actually affect them. Weibo has also made it easier for users to access the latest news and information away from the country’s propaganda-infused newspapers and discuss topics which are strictly banned on the Chinese web with other users.
Now, needless to say the idea of social media has never sat well with the Chinese government. If you think about it, a publishing platform which allows users to make free comments that the whole world can see is pretty much their worst nightmare, so it comes as no surprise that the Chinese government have made countless attempts to try to censor the most ‘controversial’ Weibo users.
This week sees the latest censorship rules brought in in an attempt to stem the flow of political and social criticism from Weibo’s estimated 300 million users. On Monday a new code of conduct was introduced by the platform’s owner Sina which includes a ‘five strikes and you’re out’ rule – any user caught posting five posts on “sensitive” subjects will have their accounts suspended for 48 hours, while any user that continues to defy the new regulations could have their accounts permanently suspended.
Image courtesy of Weibo.com
So what’s classed as “sensitive”? Well according to one anonymous Weibo user, ”the definition of what counts as sensitive was always loose and it’s expanding all the time.”
The new code of conduct bans the spread of ”state secrets”, “false information” and anything that harms “national unity” and also sees the introduction of a points system. All users will start off with 80 points and will lose a point for every ‘violation’ they commit – when and if they reach 0 their account will be cancelled. In addition to losing points, users can also gain points if they register their real name and take part in commercial activities.
In the past, Weibo users have got around the censorship rules by introducing codes, puns and homonyms whenever a word was banned (Premier Wen Jiabao became known as ‘teletubbies’), however Sina hopes to cut down on these with the new code of conduct.
The new code of conduct comes after the Chinese government put increased pressure on the platform’s owner Sina Corp to quash online rumours after it failed to restrict false rumours of a political coup. Despite already employing a “large rumour control team”, it’s believed Sina has employed thousands more content moderators in the last few days in an attempt to get a handle on the micro-bloggers’ ever ingenious puns and codes.
So will this new code of conduct affect Weibo’s popularity? In short, no. With over half of China’s internet users having some kind of micro-blog, Weibo has well and truly made its mark on the country and in spite of the new regulations, it looks like it’s not about to go anywhere any time soon.