Microblogging in China
|Chinese||微博客 or 微型博客|
Weibo uses a format similar to its American counterpart Twitter, but used almost exclusively by Chinese language speakers; this has a direct impact on features such as hashtags on Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo, which both employ a double-hashtag "#HashName#" method, since the lack of spacing between Chinese characters necessitates a closing tag. Internet users can set up real-time information sharing communities individually, and upload and update information in 140 character blocks.
A major difference is that much more information can be conveyed in 140 Chinese characters than the 140 Latin alphabet characters of Twitter.
Sina Weibo is the most visited such site in China. Sina has used the domain name weibo.com for the service since April 2011. Because of the site's popularity and domain name, "Weibo" is often used generically to refer to Sina Weibo.
Weibos are a major source of commentary on a wide range of topics. After the high-speed Wenzhou train collision in 2011 in which 40 people died, online posting played a key role in breaking the news and serving as an outlet for expressing disapproval of the government.
"Wei boke" (微博客) and "weixing boke" (微型博客), commonly abbreviated as "weibo" (微博), are Chinese words for "microblog". A China-based microblogging service often names itself a weibo by putting it after the name of the service (e.g. Sina Weibo). A similar word "围脖" (pinyin: Wéibó; literally: "scarf around the neck") is used as Internet slang for "weibo".
Fanfou (饭否) is the earliest notable weibo service. It was launched in Beijing on May 12, 2007 by the co-founder of Xiaonei (now Renren) Wang Xing (王兴). The website's layout, API, and mode of use was highly similar to Twitter, which was created earlier in 2006. Fanfou's users increased from 0.3 million to 1 million in the first half of 2009. The users included HP China, the Southern Weekly, artist Ai Weiwei, writer Lian Yue (连岳) and TV commentator Liang Wendao (梁文道).
Some other weibo services, such as Jiwai, Digu, Zuosa and Tencent's Taotao were launched in 2006-2009.
After the July 2009 Ürümqi riots, the CPC government shut down most of the domestic weibo services, including Fanfou and Jiwai. Many popular non China-based microblogging services such as Twitter, Facebook and Plurk have been blocked since then. Sina.com's CEO Charles Chao considered it to be an opportunity.
Two other Chinese Internet portals, Sohu and NetEase, launched the beta versions of their weibo sites almost simultaneously, on January 20, 2010. On January 30, another Internet portal Tencent closed its weibo service, Taotao, and started its new weibo service Tencent Weibo on March 5, 2010. Building on the large number of its instant messaging service QQ's users, Tencent Weibo later attracted more registered users than Sohu Weibo and NetEase Weibo. The public beta versions of NetEase Weibo and Sohu Weibo were launched on March 20 and April 7, 2010, respectively.
All these weibos, provided by the Chinese Internet giants, used the subdomain "t.example.com", such as t.sina.com.cn for Sina Weibo, t.qq.com for Tencent Weibo, t.sohu.com for Sohu Weibo, t.163.com for NetEase Weibo. On 7 April 2011, the leader of the weibo services Sina Weibo started to use an independent domain name weibo.com acquired earlier, in an attempt to build up its own brand.
Sohu Weibo and NetEase Weibo were suspended between July 9–12 and July 13–15, 2010, respectively. Since then, all of the Chinese weibo services have attached a note of "beta version" to their title logos. Commentators said that Sohu Weibo and NetEase Weibo were being "reorganized" by Chinese administrators. The weibo services were not officially approved, so they could only be operated as a "beta version".
Some closed weibos were re-opened under restrictions in 2009 or 2010, including Fanfou, which was re-launched in November 2010. Most of Fanfou's users never came back.
Before July 2009, Fanfou was the most influential weibo website. In February 2011, Tencent announced that its weibo registrations had exceeded 100 million. This threshold was officially passed by Sina Weibo in March 2011. However, according to iResearch's report on March 30, 2011, Sina Weibo took a commanding lead over its competitors, with 56.5% of China's microblogging market based on active users, and 86.6% based on browsing time.
According to the China Internet Network Information Center, in the first half of 2011, Chinese weibo users increased from 63.11 million to 195 million. By July 2011, 40.2% Chinese Internet users and 34.0% Chinese mobile Internet users used weibo/microblogs. In Dec 2010, it had been, respectively, 13.8% and 15.5%.
Censorship and free speech
In July 2009, Chinese microblogs were severely curtailed when most of the domestic weibo services such as Fanfou were shut down. But it brought the birth of others, such as Sina Weibo, operated by large Chinese Internet companies. Sohu Weibo and NetEase Weibo were suspended in July 2010 under the order of the Chinese administrators. Weibo is now operated as a "beta version", enabling the user to circumvent prohibition.
Due to the Internet censorship in China, all of the China-based weibo services are now controlled by various self-censorship policies and methods. They usually have an automatically checked list of blacklisted keywords. Sometimes administrators monitor these manually. Posts on topics which are sensitive and forbidden in China (e.g. Human Rights, Liu Xiaobo) are deleted, and the user's account may be blocked.
Some scandals and controversies such as the Li Gang incident, were uncovered by weibo. After incidents such as the Wenzhou train collision and the 2010 Shanghai fire, criticism of the CPC government increased on weibo.
Although weibo services have not always met the approval of the government, many Chinese officials have opened weibo accounts. An organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the People's Daily, also launched its own People's Weibo (人民微博) in February 2010, with some governmental organizations and officials blogging on it.
Recent studies have shown that official microblogging has become a sophisticated e-government effort for social management, especially for local governments and state units. It has led to a gradual change in local government's social governance strategy and functional change from being a service provider to a 'service predictor'. The latter requires enhanced capabilities to deliver individualized services and institute state surveillance via commercial service providers. In doing so, government units are experimenting with ways of interaction and negotiation with the microblogging public and service providers in their attempt to improve social management and political legitimacy. Interestingly enough, this negotiation process also exposes and/or creates inter-governmental tensions, since local governments in China consist of distinct units with their own particular preferences and operation procedures.
The "Real Name" policy
Since 2011, there have been rumors that the government will institute a "Real Name" policy for Weibo users. Early in February 2012, China's four key weibo companies – Sina, Sohu, NetEase and Tencent – announced that March 16, 2012, was the deadline for users to adopt their real name identity.
The "Real Name" policy requires all users on Chinese weibos to register with the name on their government issued ID card. However, the user name that shows on their homepage doesn’t have to be their legal name. The Real Name Policy would assist the government in controlling speech and communication on the Internet, and would facilitate Internet censorship.
Although the regulation was supposed to take effect on March 16, 2012, the policy was not implemented. Many weibo users complained about this policy, and Sina Weibo started to censor posts that contain the phrase "real name registration" or any related terms on its services from March 19, 2012.
A "Big V" is a microblogger with a substantial following and a verified account such as Kong Qingdong.
(directly translated from the official regulation)
|Several Regulations on Microblog Development and Administration Enacted by the Beijing Government|
1. For standardizing the microblog service and its development and management, maintaining the order of online communication, ensuring information securities, protecting the legitimate interest of the Internet information services sites and the microblog users, satisfying the public’s needs to Internet information, and promoting well-ordered development of the Internet, this regulation referred to the actual situation of the city and is enacted according to the "Telecommunications Regulations of the People's Republic of China", the "Measures for the Administration of Internet Information Services" and other laws, legislations, and regulations.
2. All website firms developing microblog services within the city’s administrative area and all their microblog users ought to comply with this regulation.
3. The microblog development and management adheres to the principles of positive utilization, practical development, rightful administration, and security guarantee. It has positive impact on promoting microblog construction and use, as well as its service to the community.
4. The development of microblog services must comply with the constitution, laws, legislations, and regulations. It should propagate the socialist core value system and the advanced socialist culture, and serve to the establishment of a socialist harmonious society.
5. All rights reserved to the municipal government of Beijing to enact plans for microblog service and development, and to enact regulations on the total amount, structure and layout of the microblog service sites.
6. All microblog service sites within the city’s administration area must rightfully ask for permission from the department that is in charge of Internet information content before applying for a telecommunications business license or performing non-operational Internet information services filing procedures.
7. All microblog service sites must comply with relevant laws, legislations, regulations and the following rules:
8. All microblog service sites must establish and improve censorship regulations on information content, and regulate the creation, copy, publish and transmit of content on microblogging sites.
9. Any group or person who registers a microblog account and create, duplicate, publish or transmit information must use real identification information; must not use fake or others’ residence identification information, business registration information or organization code information to register a microblog account. Microblog service sites must ensure the authenticity of registered users’ information.
10. Any organization or person must not unlawfully use microblog to create, duplicate, publish or transmit information containing any content that:
11.The news administrative department of the municipal people’s government, the municipal public security bureau, the municipal department of telecommunication administration and the municipal department of Internet information content must work on microblog development and administration in accordance with their respective responsibilities.
12. The Association of Online Media, the Internet Industry Association, the Communication Industry Association and other industry organizations must establish and improve the self-regulation in the microblog industry, guide the establishment and improvement of microblog service regulations, and train and educate the websites’ employees.
13. Any organization or persons may report acts that violate this regulation to the news administrative department of the municipal people’s government, the municipal public security bureau, the municipal department of telecommunication administration and the municipal department of Internet information content. The department that receives the report must handle it in accordance to the law.
14. For microblog users and microblog service sites who violate this regulation, the news administrative department of the municipal people’s government, the municipal public security bureau, the municipal department of telecommunication administration and the municipal department of Internet information content must handle it in accordance to the law.
15. Microblog service sites that opened before the publication of this regulation must, within three months from the date of publication of this regulation, apply for relevant formalities at the municipal department that is in charge of Internet information content, and regulates the existing microblog users.
16. This regulation shall come into force as of the date of publication.
Chinese microbloggers on Twitter
Due to the strict Internet censorship policy on microblogging enacted by the CPC government, a number of Chinese microbloggers choose to make posts that contain "sensitive contents" on Twitter. Although Twitter has been blocked in China since 2009, most Twitter users who reside in China can access the Twitter website using a proxy. More information can be found on List of websites blocked in China.
Ai Wei-wei, a well-known Chinese artist and activist, who has been arrested and controlled by the Chinese government, is one of the most active Chinese microbloggers on Twitter.
Twitter users include Chinese nationals, who participated in, or led, the Chinese democracy movement that took place on June 4, 1989, such as Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner and a political prisoner in China.
Below is an alphabetical list of notable China-based microblogging/weibo services:
- Baidu Talk (百度说吧), launched by Baidu, closed
- Digu (嘀咕)
- Fanfou (饭否), one of the earliest weibo services, highly similar to Twitter, closed due to Chinese censorship, re-opened in November 2010
- Hexun Weibo (和讯微博), launched by Hexun
- Jiwai (叽歪)
- NetEase Weibo (网易微博), launched by NetEase
- People's Weibo (人民微博), launched by People's Daily
- Phoenix Weibo (凤凰微博), launched by Phoenix Television
- Sina Weibo (新浪微博), launched by SINA Corporation, by far the most popular weibo in China, with over 300 million users
- Sohu Weibo (搜狐微博), launched by Sohu
- Tencent Weibo (腾讯微博), launched by Tencent Holdings
- Tianya Weibo (天涯微博), launched by Tianya Club
- Xinhua Weibo (新华微博), launched by Xinhua News Agency
- Zuosa (做啥)
- CNTV Weibo (央视微博), launched by CNTV
- Comparison of microblogging services
- Internet in the People's Republic of China
- Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China
- The statistical data may or may not include the mainland Chinese users that bypass the Great Firewall to use blocked microblogging services outside China.
- Stay informed today and every day (2011-09-30). "Comments by Cedric Sam". The Economist. Retrieved 2013-05-03.
- N.T, Ling. [ling.nthu.edu.tw/faculty/thlin/pdf/comparative_grammar_en_ch.pdf A comparison between English and Chinese] Check
|url=value (help) (PDF). NTU. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
- Wines, Michael; Lafraniere, Sharon (28 July 2011). "In Baring Train Crash Facts, Blogs Erode China Censorship". The New York Times.
- "China's Internet users reach 564 mln". news.xinhuanet.com. 2013-01-15. Retrieved 2013-01-15.
- "Twitter时代：人人都可发新闻". 田志凌 (in Chinese). Southern Metropolis Daily. July 12, 2009. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- "Special: Micro blog's macro impact". Michelle and Uking. China Daily. March 2, 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- "Charles Chao – The 2011 TIME 100". Austin Ramzy. TIME. April 21, 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- "Sina Weibo". Gady Epstein. Forbes Asia Magazine. March 14, 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- 网易微博公测上线 更开放更去中心化 (in Chinese). NetEase Tech. March 20, 2010. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- 搜狐微博上线 (in Chinese). cnBeta. 7 April 2010. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- 网易微博也开始"维护" 各网站推出"测试版". 谭人玮 (in Chinese). Southern Metropolis Daily. July 14, 2010. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- 网易微博突然关闭 各大微博齐变"测试版" (in Chinese). 成都商报, ifeng. July 15, 2010. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- 新浪发布2010年四季及全年财报 微博用户数过亿 (in Chinese). Sina Tech. March 2, 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- "Sina Commands 56% of China's Microblog Market". Kyle. iResearch. March 30, 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- "第28次中国互联网络发展状况统计报告" (PDF). China Internet Network Information Center. July 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
- "China's Sina to step-up censorship of Weibo". Reuters. Sep 19, 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "Beijing's Weibo Conundrum". The Wall Street Journal. Sep 21, 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "新浪微博搜索禁词". China Digital Times. 7 July 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "Radiohead enters censored world of Chinese social media". Global Post. July 3, 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "著名艺术家艾未未挑战新浪微博的网络审查". Boxun.com. 10 March 2010. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- The Wenzhou Crash and the Future of Weibo, Penn Olson – The Asian Tech Catalog, August 1, 2011
- "Weibo Microblogs – A Western format with new Chinese implications". Thinking Chinese. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- Schlæger, Jesper and Jiang, Min (2014) 'Official microblogging and social management by local governments in China', China Information 28(2), http://cin.sagepub.com/content/28/2/189.abstract |accessdate=2014-08-20
- Ide, William (2012). "Confusion Follows China 'Real Name' Policy Deadline for Microblogs". Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- "微博实名制_百度百科". Baike.baidu.com. Retrieved 2013-05-03.
- Millward, Steven (2012). "'Real name' registration in China: A bad joke that turned into a farce". Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- Patrick Boehler (February 27, 2015). "Beijing Courts Address the Right to Criticize Public Figures" (Sinosphere blog). The New York Times. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
a so-called Big V, a term used to describe widely followed microbloggers with verified accounts
- "北京市微博发展管理若干规定". Baidu Baike (Baidu Encyclopedia).
- Branigan, Tania (2009). [http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/jun/02/twitter-
china "China blocks Twitter, Flickr and Hotmail ahead of Tiananmen anniversary"] Check
|url=value (help). The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2012-03-26. line feed character in
|url=at position 58 (help)
- "The Nobel Peace Prize 2010". Nobelprize.org. 29 Mar 2012 http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2010/
- "Tencent's WeChat Takes Bite Out of Weibo, Sina Says". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2014-05-08.