Weibo.com, the Chinese version of Twitter, has announced new rules today to complement the existing Weibo Community Convention. The new rules have announced some stricter measures to control the dissemination and sharing of information via the internet in China.
The prior Convention of Weibo was created two months ago following the heyday of microblogging that shed much light on the case of Bo Xilai. Rumours as well as truth ran wide, annoying authorities who turned to put much pressure on China’s Sina Corp, the owner of Weibo. This is not the first time that Sina was subject to such bullying.
In December last year, the government regulation forced all Weibo users to register their real names, a move that had scared thousands of new users away and broken the hearts of old ones. Seeing itself in a bind, Weibo had to offer financial reward for existing customers who would turn their names in, and remained by and large inactive for those who did not. Even so, bouts of discontent deepened Weibo’s woes. Its growth slowed and stock slumped following the name-rule.
Now, the New Weibo Rules creates new procedure in content-reviewing. An “expert committee” consists of 1000 to 1500 “scientists, scholars, well-known journalists and sophisticated internet users, etc.” will be founded to “sagfeguard internet security”. They will be obliged to delete and report any information that
1. violates the constitution;
2. sabotages the unification of the country (don’t talk about Taiwan);
3. leaks national secrets threatens national security or damages national image (no picture of Wen jiabao hit by shoes);
4. stirs up hatred among or against other ethnicity (don’t talk about Tibet);
5. advocates superstitions and cult (Falun Gong? no,no…);
6. makes up rumours that undermine social stability (no bad word on the government)
7. incites gambling, violence or crime (sounds normal ,but who knows how it will be interpreted)
8. encourages protest, strikes and any public gathering activities (shut up on the fourth of June)
9. contains content prohibited by the law, regulation and the government. (don’t say anything I don’t like)
However, the founding of the committee not only castrates information sharing, it also silences the voice of Weibo at its root. The people who were invited to join the committee are exactly those who tried to exercise their right to speak in and for the public via Weibo, especially after so much threatening, detaining and beating-up.
Some of their blogs have initiated reform in education; some have brought national attention on food security. But now, these people who once fought at the frontline of our battle are about to be bought to the other side. Being winded around by more rules, Chinese internet users will find it even harder to pursue speech freedom.
- Chinese censors can’t hide deleted Weibo posts (chinadailymail.com)
- Chinese microblog must not sacrifice free speech (wantchinatimes.com)
- Chinese social media users ‘happier’ than Westerners (telegraph.co.uk)