This in turn influences public opinion of, and political responses to, certain events.News of the high-speed train crash in Wenzhou in 2011, which killed 40 people, first broke on weibo.Posts are censored, accounts are closed down, and search results are filtered for sensitive political content.The proliferation of rumors has justified widespread crackdowns on unwelcome content.According to an internal management notice from Sina that was leaked online, any “harmful” information that is posted must be deleted within five minutes, and posts by blacklisted users, who are still allowed to have an account, must be checked before publishing.Also, weibo service providers are required to give public security agencies access to their back end, through which officers can directly enter keywords that should be blocked and immediately delete videos and photos.Within days of Yang’s post, the world knew of the connections between Heywood, Bo, and Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai; Gu has since been handed down a suspended death sentence for Heywood’s murder and Bo has been expelled from the Communist Party and is facing criminal charges.But Yang, a well-respected and popular journalist and microblogger, is still prevented from communicating freely with his followers on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging platform.
His post is widely recognized as the first significant public mention of a connection between the two men and it spread like wildfire online before being deleted the next day.
Bill Bishop, Beijing-based editor of the Sinocism newsletter, tells CPJ that Sina rose to the top of the market both by building a great product and because, “it knew what it needed to do to stay in good graces with the government, unlike Fanfou.” Microblog platforms use a variety of methods to comply with government censorship requests.
Keyword filtering is the most widely deployed method to limit content.
Yet these companies are caught between their users, who often demand more freedom, and censorship authorities, who require the companies to self-censor their platforms or risk losing their license to operate.
Companies that did not comply with government expectations did not excel in the market: For example, Fanfou, China’s earliest microblogging platform, was closed down for 16 months in 2009-10 after users posted information about riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang.