Saturday, 27 August 2011

China puts squeeze on rising world of microbloggers

China puts squeeze on rising world of microbloggers
28 Aug, 2011 12:00 AM
#Media    #China @MeetChina
THE operators of China's most vibrant equivalent of Twitter have notified each of its 200 million users that several bloggers deemed to have spread unfounded rumours would have their accounts suspended for one month.
In messages, the operators of Sina.com's Weibo microblog detailed the suspensions of the bloggers on Friday. The announcements provoked a torrent of online protest, some directed at the government on the assumption that it was behind the punishments.

If so, it was the clearest expression yet of the government's growing concern about its inability to curb free expression on the internet - particularly searing criticism of official acts - despite a sweeping and extremely sophisticated censorship regime.

Last Monday, a member of the Politburo, the Communist Party committee that acts as China's collective leadership, visited Sina.com officials and said that they should ''resolutely put an end to fake and misleading information''. Beijing's party secretary Liu Qi said they should use new technology to better manage microbloggers.

The company's notices stated that two bloggers who had spread false rumours on Weibo would lose their right to post messages or to add followers for a month. One stated that a blogger had been suspended after posting a false report that the accused killer of a 19-year-old woman had been set free after his politically powerful father intervened. Another disclosed the suspension of a blogger who accused the Red Cross Society of China, which is mired in a financial scandal, of selling blood at a profit.

Still, one official of a Chinese internet-related service, speaking on the condition of anonymity about a matter of deep concern to the authorities, predicted that the notices would have a chilling effect. The official said it might also represent the start of further efforts to keep politically sensitive information out of the public domain. Last Monday, People's Daily, the Communist Party's official newspaper, published a full-page article on the ''political mission'' to control microblogs and other new forms of media.

China has pursued two tracks with regard to the internet, allowing debate on topics unrelated to high-level politics and governance, but carefully monitoring - and sometimes banning - discussions on topics deemed too sensitive.

NEW YORK TIMES

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