Twitter and Facebook are banned in China; people instead use similar services called Baidu, Tencent and Weibo. So†an appearance — reported in the†website China Smack –†by Facebook CEO Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan in a†commercial for an upcoming documentary about Chinaís police force (and a film presenting the police in what seems to be a positive light) is simply puzzling. A smiling Zuckerberg is shown glancing at two Chinese police personnel and then walking the other way with his wife.†As†Raw Story’s Andrew Jones writes: “The irony of Zuckerbergís two-second appearance in the commercial hasnít been neglected, since Facebook is still banned in China” — and even if Facebook were allowed in China, what kind of rules would Chinese authorities insist that users adhere to?
Weibo has about 300 million users and its parent company, Sina Corp., has just announced a code of conduct that will restrict what can be said in messages, says the BBC. It is a thinly veiled effort to censor what users discuss online; Weibo announced the code after local authorities criticized what they called “unfounded rumors” being posted.
Weibo’s users will now be subjected to a credit-score protocol: All users will start with 80 points. They can gain more by participating in promotions but will lose points if they breach the code. If their score goes below 60 points, a “low credit” warning will appear on their microblog, meaning that their account could be canceled if their point total is zero. “Behaving” for two months means that one’s score can be returned to 80.
- Spread rumours
- Publish untrue information
- Attack others with personal insults or libellous comments
- Oppose the basic principles of China’s constitution
- Reveal national secrets
- Threaten China’s honour
- Promote cults or superstitions
- Call for illegal protests or mass gatherings
Users are also not allowed to use “oblique expressions or other methods” to get around the rules. For instance, after the former Communist Party’s Chongqing chief, Bo Xilai, was stripped of his Politburo post and his wife, Gu Kailai, was detained on suspicion of being involved in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, China’s netizens used
…the hash-tag “important news” for posts on the issue, and “Wood” instead of “Heywood” when discussing the British businessman whose death Bo Xilai’s wife is being questioned about.
Authorities in China have also been been critical of the microblogs for spreading false rumors such as that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had been assassinated and that a military coup to overthrow Chinese President Hu Jintao had been staged.
Writing as I am from the US, I can only think of how many tweets would be censored if Twitter had such a code. Certainly there is plenty of misinformation, rumors and such on Twitter (and on the Internet) but people are (ideally) educated to think critically and discern truth from rumor (easier said than done, it is true).
Chinese authorities are clearly as intent as ever on restricting free expression and the flow of information. The recent, daring escape of dissident Chen Guangcheng from round-the-clock surveillance at his home in Shandong province has suggested that the authoritarian country’s security forces may not be as air-tight as thought. Now in New York, Chen has repeatedly said that he fears for his family’s safety. Chen’s brother, Chen Guangfu, is†reportedly missing after fleeing to Beijing to seek help for his son, Chen Kegui, who faces an attempted murder charge after using knives when local officials broke into his house, the day after his uncle’s escape. Last week, Chen Guangu described how he had been tied to a chair and beaten for three days to reveal how his brother had escaped.
Clearly, discussing the information in the previous paragraph would result in your Weibo account quickly having zero points — if you could mention anything about Chen and his family at all.
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