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What's not allowed on China's version of Twitter (blockedonweibo.tumblr.com)
71 points by arkitaip on Mar 10, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments

It's interesting how much of a disconnect there is between the Chinese Internet and the Western one, and not because of censorship but just the language barrier.

I have very little idea what's going on over there, just random tidbits, and they have more people online now than the US does.

As a weibo user, sometimes I delete message because typo, or it may hurt my friends' feeling.

When you see other people's message got deleted, you have no way to know whether it is deleted by the user himself or censored (at least not until just a few weeks ago).

I am not defending Chinese gov here. But I am curious how can those researchers figure out whom has deleted the message?

The researchers were analyzing message blocks, where there is explicit feedback from Weibo that your message isn't harmonious enough. Has Weibo has resorted to hell banning messages yet; where the user thinks the message has gone through but is silently repressed by the system from reaching many users? That should be detectable though by using multiple accounts in the experiment.

Yes, you suggest a way that may detect blocks. According to the researcher's website, he is using the search function of weibo to check which words are blocked, that is smart. It seems that weibo are using program and hiring people to do the censorship. There even are rumors saying that those censorship department are settled in WuHan city, and has a team of more than 500 people. Anyway, his research is valuable, and it helps bringing more sunshine to the weibo land.

I tried several words, they are not blocked. Maybe it's because the government is loosing some of the restrictions, which seems to be true in the last few months. Usually political sensitive contents on Renren (RENN) were blocked within a few hours, but now they are "allowed" to be there, for now. My favorite blocked word was "Tomorrow", which was blocked during Feb 2011 when "Arab Spring" spread to China, so that people could't say things like "let's go on the street tomorrow", lol, of course, it's not blocked now.

One of the posts down the page references "The Great Weibo Unblocking of late-January 2012", and many of the posts show separate block statuses from November and February.

Why do authors like to use headlines like "China's version of Twitter" or "China's version of Facebook"? What is wrong with just simply calling it "What is not allowed on Sina Weibo" or "What is not allowed on Chinese microblogs"?

You have to write to your audience, and if your audience is primarily American or European, chances are they don't know what "Sina Weibo" is but do understand what "China's version of Twitter" is.

It is possible to write an article targeted toward a particular audience while simultaneously educating them.

For example, I think a statement like:

"The U.S. House of Representative, a governing body similar to the British House of commons, held a vote..."

is preferable to the alternative:

"The U.S. version of the British House of Commons held a vote..."

Regardless, why not just take it out of the title and throw it in the about section.

I think I will order myself Italy's version of Chow Mein for dinner.

Because for most Americans, the names of the services are meaningless. The comparisons convey more information about the story's context.

And a generic term like "microblogs," while somewhat better, doesn't capture information about the relative importance of the service.

Mark Zuckerberg's version of MySpace. :)

Even China Daily used to call micro-blogging "Twitter" before they were rebuked by government censors. The simple fact is that Weibo is and always has been a clone of Twitter with Chinese characteristics.

The government's move to enforce Real IDs will probably basically lock out all foreigners or anyone without Chinese ID numbers (including even citizen overseas Chinese), making Weibo even more obscure outside of China.

While at its inception Weibo was a "twitter clone with Chinese characteristics"; it most certainly is not. IMHO, and in the opinion of everyone I talk to who has access to both, Weibo has created a "Microblog experience" that is fundamentally different (and for many more engaging) than twitter.

For example, Weibo has included inline images and videos from the get go - making your weibo stream a cross between twitter and pinterest. They have "badges", "real time chat" and other features found in other SNS applications but adapted to the microblog format. Their iPad app is beautiful - flipboard for the "microblog" format. And so on.

If you look at how people use the services, I think you'll find that Weibo users spend more time engaging with the platform than Twitter users. Its an all engrossing source of digital information, content and entertainment.

For anyone looking to put a "stream" into their app (which we are working on) its very interesting to explore the experiences and choices of both. They are not the same.

Having said that, Twitter has a far more open and accessible API and yes, it goes without saying, its not censored.

They've definitely piled on the features for weibo to suit the Chinese audience; most of this innovation is local. The nice thing about Twitter was its simplicity, that you don't have to load pics in the tweets you receive, that the visual design is simple, and you don't have any pointless reputation side games to distract you. Weibo goes and adds those features, I don't think it makes it better than twitter in anyway, although it is definitely different.

Couple that with the fact that 140 ideographic Chinese characters is much more information than a 140 phoentic letters (say 1.5, 2 times as much) along with threaded discussions, and weibo begins to look more like full on social networking than just microblogging. The way weibo has bitten into Kaixin and Renren is evidence of that.

However, I wouldn't call "Weibo" more than a Twitter clone until they are allowed to compete head-to-head with Twitter by the Chinese government. Weibo is simply Twitter in China because Twitter isn't allowed to exist.

This is a list of words blocked on http://www.weibo.com/ which has nothing to do with Twitter.

Weibo is a competitor to Twitter. Twitter was mentioned in the title probably so that readers unfamiliar with Chinese websites could understand the context of this blog.

Weibo is not a competitor to Twitter since Twitter does not work inside China without jumping the wall. Weibo is completely protected by the Chinese government from competition with Twitter.

i see the word justice is blocked on weibo. Apparently the Chinese govt doesn't like justice!

I feel like this is proof that America has sold out. I understand China's role in the global economy and I understand why we've become dependent on them, I'm just ashamed we let it happen in the first place.

In my eyes, the beauty of the internet is that it literally makes the sum of all human knowledge to date available to anyone with a connection. To restrict the internet is to restrict knowledge, and restricting knowledge/information is one of the most dangerous things that any government or organization can do. Once you start, where do you stop?

The US is not the worlds police. No one but the Chinese let China do anything. It is the height of arrogance to believe noting in the world happens unless the US lets it happen.

You are calling me arrogant for something I did not say. I did not claim that the US is the world's police. My point is that if we were as morally bound as we claimed to be, we wouldn't deal with the Chinese in the first place. We live in a world where corporations are the new countries. Years ago, companies felt a loyalty to the country they were based. Now, companies do whatever is necessary to achieve the highest possible profit margins. Do I blame them? No, not really. If I were in their position, I don't know how I would do it. There's definitely something to be said for trying to make as much money as possible. Greed is what makes the world go round, whether we like it or not. Do I think it's right? No, not really.

I just think it's a shame that companies are so willing to sell out for short-term profit without thinking about the long-term consequences of their action. I believe that if the US wants to sit on its' moral high horse and play world police that we should at least hold ourselves to the standards we expect the world to follow.

> Years ago, companies felt a loyalty to the country they were based. Now, companies do whatever is necessary to achieve the highest possible profit margins.

By 'years ago', you mean centuries, yes? Or are you indulging in nostalgia about the Imaginary Past? There seems to be a tendency to go on about how wonderful things were back in the day, but really they were not. Take the 60s, for instance; the US and its companies interacted with countries substantially nastier than China today, and, well, the domestic picture was hardly rosy either.

However, history has shown that the best way to change another country is to engage with them on as many levels as possible.

Living in China for almost 5 years now, I am beginning to wonder if this is actually true. China was much more open before 2008 Olympics than after, its basically been downhill for the last 3 years. Engagement alone doesn't bring results, there also needs to be an explicit push for progress.


Chinese internet use:

2000 - 1.7%

2005 - 7.9%

2010 - 31.6%

2012 - ~50%

2015 - ~90%?

That's ... significant. Assuming that mass dissent is not an option, they need to censor more vigorously.

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