Weibo – China’s Version of Twitter
Weibo is a Chinese social-media platform that works like Twitter. It was launched in 2009 and now has over 350 million registered users. Weibo lets its users discuss issues, criticize the government, post photos and comments. However, the microblogging platform has become a battlefield between China’s citizens and the authorities. On the one side the Communist government is happy to hear what people think about various issues, but on the other side they do not want to loosen control over their citizens.
Many Chinese get most of their information from Weibo. There are many hot issues that are not published in state-owned newspapers or on Chinese television. For example, a Chinese student started a discussion when he found out that restaurants were using chemicals on meat. In another discussion on Weibo, Chinese citizens criticized authorities when 40 people died in a high-speed train crash only a few days after its service started. Not all of the comments were published. Those that made fun of the government were quickly deleted.
Weibo is changing the way citizens are communicating with the government. The Communist regime is not sure how to deal with the social media platform. The government thinks that shutting down Weibo may cause rebellion and a massive protest among its citizens.
Even if Weibo lets people communicate more or less freely there are restrictions. Comments are carefully looked at and deleted if they are too embarrassing to the authorities. Some Weibo accounts have even been deleted, like the one of a popular blogger with 30,000 followers who criticized China’s space program.
Unlike Twitter, Weibo cannot be used to organize social gatherings or protests. It has a special word filter that raises a red flag when words like "meeting", "gathering" or others come up. You must also register with your real name and are not allowed to use fake names like in Twitter and Facebook.
The internet services that control Weibo are confronted with a big problem. On the one side they want to keep their users satisfied and grow further, on the other they fear that a misstep can lead to the government’s shutting down of the service.
Some government agencies, like a Bejing-based environmental department welcomes Weibo. It informs the public about various projects and in return gets information about companies that do not follow the rules or cause damage to the environment.
All in all the government has realized that it cannot ignore the voices from the people, even if it sometimes means taking in harsh criticism.
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- account = when you log on to a website with your name and password
- authorities = an official organization in a country that has the power to make decisions
- battlefield = place where you argue with someone else
- Beijing-based = with the main offices in Beijing
- citizen = person who lives in a country and has rights there
- confront = faced with
- delete = erase, remove
- embarrassing = something that makes you feel ashamed or uncomfortable
- environment = about the world around us
- fake = not real
- government = the people who rule a country
- harsh = unkind, sharp
- however = but
- in return = in exchange
- issue = topic
- launch =start
- loosen = to make something less strict
- massive = very big
- microblogging = when users communicate in short sentences
- misstep = mistake
- popular = well-known
- publish = print
- raise a red flag = a warning comes up
- realize = to find out
- regime = government that is not elected by the people
- restriction = when something is limited
- rule = law
- satisfied = pleased , happy
- service = regular trip
- shut down = close
- social gathering = to get together in a place with other people
- social media platform = web site on which you can communicate with other people, share pictures , chat etc..
- space program = the sending of astronauts and spaceships to explore the earth and other planets
- various = different kinds of