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