China’s internet censorship can be displayed through the changes that have taken place on the popular Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo. Developed in 2009 shortly following the shutdown of other blogging sites after the Ürümqi riots, Weibo has expanded rapidly presenting its fully developed site in April 2011. Popularity of the site can be presented in its 503 million followers by the end of 2012 with at least 30% of China’s internet population as registered users. The sites popularity is suggested to be through the ability to openly present opinions, with ideas that Sina Weibo was the closest thing to a public platform of free speech within China. The site fuelled political discussions with government officials using the site to voice and defend political policies or decisions. ‘Sina Weibo’ was also popular among foreign journalists allowing a view into the previously opaque Chinese political world.
However internet censorship within China was seen to effect Sina Weibo’s positive appeal, a blacklist of key words and deletion of politically sensitive topics was a restriction to the ideal of an open forum. This was developed further in 2012 with the sites requirement to register users under a real name, a policy that was suggested to intimidate users through fear of retribution over subversive comments. Censorship of Sina Weibo by Chinese law was again highlighted with the suggestion that members who were thought to spread rumours were arrested, again inciting fear and submission into users. Policies such as this are presented as causes for fall in the number of members, or active members becoming mute. Sina Weibo is now described as free from political discussions and a home to government propaganda and consumerist advertising. Although positive aspects of Sina Weibo can still be displayed with ideas that the site has allowed a collective citizenship to be formed and therefore opinions and free speech will find another forum.
Moore, M. (2014) ‘China kills off discussion on Weibo after internet crackdown’, The Telegraph, 30 January [Online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10608245/China-kills-off-discussion-on-Weibo-after-internet-crackdown.html (Accessed: 18 February 2014).
Wertime, D. (2014) ‘China can crackdown on the users of Weibo but they will soon find another home’, The Telegraph, 30 January [Online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10608328/China-can-crack-down-on-users-of-Weibo-but-they-will-soon-find-another-home.html (Accessed: 18 February 2014)