China Censors Weibo Amid Rise of Political Rumors
Rumors of a coup and a scandal linking a top Chinese official to corruption and murder have prompted China’s government to shut down several accounts on the country’s ultra-popular Twitter-like site, Sina Weibo. Authorities are said to have shut down the accounts of users allegedly associated with spreading rumors that a military coup was underway in Beijing last month. Additionally, the government announced that six people involved in the spread of the rumors have been detained.
According to a statement obtained by the Washington Post, the micro-blogging site said, “Recently, criminal elements have used Sina Weibo to create and spread malicious political rumors online for no reason, producing a terrible effect on society.” The statement continues, reminding all users to abide by the laws and regulations regarding speech on the internet and to report any rumors to the authorities.
The action stems from political chatter last month on Weibo, which is used by over three million people in China, related to former government official Bo Xilai, who is currently under investigation for possible corruption as well as accusations that he murdered a British businessman. In the days following Bo’s removal from his position, financial journalist Li Delin posted on Weibo that he’d spotted military vehicles and plainclothes police officers occupying the streets of Beijing.
The combination of the two events – Bo’s removal from office and reports of a military coup underway – sparked a tidal wave of rumors across Weibo. Rumors, as you may or may not know, are not easily tolerated by the Chinese government. Aside from arresting six people associated with concocting the rumors, authorities also scrubbed 210,000 posts from Weibo.
China’s ruling Communist Party has a notorious reputation for micro-managing the flow of information on the internet and controls every media outlet in the country. Social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are blocked from being accessed within the country. Last month, Anonymous attempted to frustrate the government’s vice-like grip over the flow of information by defacing several Chinese government websites and posting in their place instructions for how Chinese citizens can circumvent the nation’s Great Firewall.