Weibo is China’s version of Twitter, and the microblogging service shares much in common with its Western counterpart. Weibo users anonymously report news and have been known to discuss topics often forbidden on the Chinese web. They even spread false death rumors the way Twitter does. The Chinese Communist Party sees unabridged, anonymous speech, especially when it’s about political corruption, as dangerous to the country’s social order, and censors have tried various ways to implement blocks and filters on Weibo.
Sina, the company behind Weibo, implemented “user contracts” earlier this month to try and suppress the rampant political speech and debate going on between its 200 million users. This week, The New York Times is reporting that Sina will now be grading Weibo members on their behavior, using a points system to keep track.
Users will start out with 80 points, and points can be deducted for disruptive posts. How many points will be deducted for a violation, or what topics and posts could be point-deduction-worthy were not revealed. Presumably, this is intentional, since having no official ruleset for the points means they can be used as an excuse to simply censor users. What is known is that when users hit 60 points they will be issued a warning. Zero points means an account ban. Users can restore their 80-point standing by having no violations for 20 months. Also, Reuters reports that extra points can be earned by users if they give up their anonymity by validating their real-life identity.
Of course, censorship has never stopped the internet, especially Twitter, from talking. Much the same as French tweeters who were banned from discussing early exit poll results from their country’s presidential elections, Weibo users have been using code words to discuss sensitive political topics.
(via The New York Times)