Microblogs in China have become a concern to authorities and have triggered even more stringent Internet controls, according to an official Chinese think tank report.
The report, titled “The Development of China’s New Media in 2011” was released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in Beijing on July 12. It states that Chinese Internet users have identified reliable technologies to bypass the “Great Wall,” a nickname for the firewall that censors the web in China, and have succeeded in accessing foreign websites, thereby jeopardizing national security.
Southern Daily provided more details of the report on July 13, saying China is now the country with the largest number of Internet users and mobile phone subscribers, 450 million and 900 million, respectively, and more people than anywhere else in the world are using the new microblog social media.
By the end of 2010, there were 1.91 million domestic websites in China. The number of fledgling microblogs, called “Weibo” in Chinese, increased dramatically from 17 in early 2010 to 88 by year’s end.
Microblogs Expose Corruption
Increasing numbers of Chinese Internet users now send messages to microblogs from their mobile phones, and microblogs have evolved into a platform to expose incidents of social injustice, corruption, and scandals involving officials.
CASS personnel said at a press conference, that microblogs carry a lot of “false” information, which is then blindly copied and pasted onto other media, resulting in detrimental impacts to national security and hastening Chinese authorities’ implementation of more regulations.
Liu Ruiseng, an associate researcher at the Academy warned that the phenomenon of politicizing the new [microblog] media shouldn’t be overlooked.
Liu cited Google’s exit from China in 2010 as an example, saying it was a conspiracy jointly plotted by the U.S. government and Google.
Yin Yungong, director and chief editor of the Journalism Institute at CASS, warned that new media, such as microblogs, have impacted society and politics.
“The Jasmine Revolution, which has spread across North Africa and the Middle East at the end of 2010, has also been called the “Twitter Revolution” by western media. Such events reveal the fact that new media are making strides into political and military domains,” Yin said.
CASS experts at the press conference also said Internet users who bypass the firewall are jeopardizing national security. Their recommendation was that authorities step in and take tighter control.
Internet users were quick to reply, saying officials were just trying to defend the authorities’ repression of free speech online.