Measures against social media in China: 6 arrests, 16 sites closed

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Society & You - Social Critic
Thursday, 05 April 2012 11:35

When the early birds awoke on Saturday March 31, 2012, the following news was spread by the Internet in China: Six people were arrested and 16 websites shut down, according to the National Internet Information Office (IOS) of China and the Police Beijing, for "inventing and spreading rumors on the internet", reported the official news agency Xinhuad [in].

The same report stated that the sites of microblogging [in] type Twiter Sina Weibo [in] and Tencent Weibo [in], where the alleged rumors appeared, had been "censured and punished accordingly." There is no way of knowing what the Chinese netizens penalty but soon realized the results: both microblogging sites forbade users to send comments on Saturday March 31 through Tuesday, April 3.

Many foreign media noticed the story, as the BBC , The Wall Street Journal , Al Jazeera or Forbes.

No one can hear your screams here. Have the people duct-taped. From Ministry of Tofu

No one can hear you scream. Here are people gagged. By Ministry of Tofu

The new blog [at] wrote:

Earlier last week there was a flood of rumors claiming tabloid in Chinese microblogs political unrest and divisions among party leaders. Last night the news said [in] that the relevant authorities punished two of the most influential microblogging platforms in China: Sina and Tencent Weibo Weibo, for not acting with sufficient force to quell the rumors.

Xinhua [in] quoted a spokesman for IOIS stating that these rumors (common euphemism for criticism of the government) were on "military vehicles at the entrance to Beijing and that something bad was happening in Beijing." Related to conversations on the Internet about an alleged coup attempt [at] and the struggle for power in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after the senior Bo Xilai was dismissed [in] from office.

Comments on Bo Xilai and the alleged coup were censored earlier this month in the Chinese social media.

Jing Gao, the Ministry of Tofu [at] wrote:

On the morning of March 31, Sina Weibo users trying to leave comments received a system error message:

"All users of Weibo: recently, some comments microbloggers started showing a lot of information harmful and illegal, plus rumors. In an effort to clean them all at once, depending on the Sina Weibo comments will be temporarily disabled from March 31 8:00 to 8:00 April 3. After cleaning, re-open the comments section. Cleaning is necessary to provide information to everyone a climate of better communication. Hope for your understanding and consideration. Thank you for your support. "

Sina Weibo user "Sina's mascot should look like these days." Image of Ministry of Tofu

Another statement by the spokesman of IOIS quoted by Xinhua said that an unknown number of people, also accused of spreading rumors were "reprimanded and educated" and showed "intention to repent." According to Xinhua, the Beijing police declared that the rumors "seriously disturbing public order and undermine social stability, so you deserve to be punished."

C. Custer Techinasia [in], said:

It is said that the rumors have a "diabolical influence" on society, and the spread are called "offenders" who acted "maliciously" and "without cause". Xinhua is the official news agency of China so these words probably were well chosen.

The report ends with the sentence: "Both companies [Sina and Tencent] said they would implement conscientiously the relevant regulations, give the necessary steps to reform and increase the supervision [of content]." This is very important, especially if you are a user weibo.

China has probably the system of censorship on the Internet more [in] sophisticated in the world, known as the Great Firewall of China . But social media, especially the microblogs, are seen by many as the twenty-first century tool that challenges government control over information.

The Communist Party is aware of the power of social media. The Chinese authorities have increased efforts to control information on the Internet [at] last year, after the events of the Arab Spring took to Twitter and Facebook to be leading tool to overthrow governments. Last December, Chinese authorities established new measures [in] that force microbloggers to sign their real names. However, there is a widespread feeling that the Chinese Internet companies are popular and powerful enough to challenge the government. The question is, can someone in China to make the CCP overlook it?

C. Custer, Techinasia [in], said at the end of his letter:

If you think Weibo poses a real threat to social stability, will not hesitate to close it.

But you never come to this because Sina and Tencent are not stupid. They may have been playing fast and loose with the rules so far, but both understand that subject to the rules is the only way of working that has a company in China. (And if you do not believe me ask Google.) So, if you're a weibo do not be surprised to see major changes in the coming months (and perhaps those rumors retuitees not hit unless you're interested in getting to know the safety agents the State). Registration with the real name has not impacted too much conversation in Chinese microblog yet, but I have a hunch that it will end the party.

The control on the Internet is an important issue in China. The power of social media to express political and social unrest poses a direct threat to the stability and harmony of the CCP Orwellian. In the face of an economy and cold in the middle of a transition of command, the CCP seems to think that cracking down on Internet is the best way to maintain power.

Written by Violet Camarasa · Translated by Azucena Ramos · View original post [en] · Comments (0)
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