China’s government has threatened to shut down Sina Weibo, one of the country’s most popular news & social websites akin to Facebook and Twitter for the Chinese, unless the site “improves censorship”, state media reported.
The online portal stands accused of “distorted news facts, violated morality and engaged in media hype”, the official Xinhua news agency on Saturday cited the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) as saying.
The CAC will “seriously” punish Sina Weibo, with possible measures including “a complete shut down of its Internet news services”, Xinhua added.
From a nation who scrubbed on average 15 of every 1000 social media posts during the height of recent protests in Hong Kong this threat of a Weibo shut down or further censorship should be taken seriously. The effort necessary to obtain any images from the popular social media platform is already a race against the censors.
As fast as people post and share images about protests or dissent on Weibo is barely faster than the rate they are removed by Chinese authorities. If not for dedicated people putting their own welfare on the line to compete with the censors in retrieving images and information before removal from Weibo to republish it elsewhere, we here at Revolution News would never be able to provide coverage of protests or social struggles from inside of China.
All of the links below were a direct result of Chinese Citizens uploading info to Sina Weibo.
April 8th 2015 China: Violent Protest Halts Waste Incinerator Project
September 2014 – 20,000 Protest Waste Incinerator Project in China
Hangzhou in May 2014: Brutal Crackdown on Hangzhou Waste Incinerator Protest Leaves 3 Dead, Sparks Riot
Maoming in March 2014:
China: Dozens Beaten Bloody, up to Ten Possible Deaths at Maoming Anti-PX Protests
Images like the ones retrieved about this past weeks two days of resistance against a waste incinerator project in Guangdong may become a thing of the past.
– Images retrieved from Chinese social media sites of smashed police vehicles from this weeks protest in Guangdong.
CAC officials added that “censorship of user accounts has been poor”, Xinhua said, in a likely reference to Sina Weibo, a service similar to Twitter which has hundreds of millions of registered users in China.
The report did not provide specifics on which of Sina’s news offerings had fallen foul of censors, but said the CAC accused Sina of spreading “illegal information related to rumours, violence and terrorism”, and “advocation of heresies”.
Chinese authorities have in the past used “heresy” to refer to content related to banned religious groups, such as the Falun Gong.
The Chinese government generally operates its control over media behind the scenes, with secret directives on how to report stories. Journalists who disobey or leak the orders can be punished.
Controls have tightened under China’s current president Xi Jinping. The France-based group Reporters Without Borders ranked China 175 out of 180 countries in its 2014 worldwide index of press freedom.
“Chinese web giant Sina will face suspension of its Internet news services if it fails to improve censorship,” Communist party mouthpiece the People’s Daily wrote on Twitter, a site which is blocked by Chinese authorities.
China in 2013 launched a crackdown on “online rumours”, with several people posting content deemed untrue jailed in a campaign seen as an attempt to rein in online debate on microblogging services.
The campaign prompted a number of prominent government critics to quit microblogging or tone down their comments, and was blamed for a drop in Sina Weibo use.
Sina’s portal is the fourth most visited website in China, according to ranking service Alexa. Neither Sina nor CAC could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.