China clamps down on Sina Weibo as censorship abounds

The Twitter-like service has warned its more than 300 million users that it banned some accounts for allegedly spreading rumors across the Web.

Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
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China has once again taken aim at Web users who have allegedly spread political rumors across the Internet.

Twitter-like microblogging service Sina Weibo yesterday announced to its user base that it had banned several accounts for engaging in rumor mongering. The move came about a month after Li Delin, a senior editor for Chinese magazine Capital Week, wrote on Sina Weibo that he saw an inordinate number of military vehicles and plainclothes police in Beijing. The message sparked rumors of a possible coup.

"Recently, criminal elements have used Sina Weibo to create and spread malicious political rumors online for no reason, producing a terrible effect on society," Sina Weibo wrote in a notice to its users yesterday, according to The Wall Street Journal, which viewed the message. Sina Weibo went on to say that the accused had "already been dealt with by public security organs according to the law."

China has long taken issue with so-called "rumors" that spread across the Internet. Last summer, Xinhua, the mouthpiece for the country's ruling Communist party, said that microblogging services like Sina Weibo, as well as blogs, fuel "toxic rumors" that could eventually lead to the disintegration of the quality of the Web.

"The rapid advance of this flood has also brought 'mud and sand'--the spread of rumors--and to nurture a healthy Internet, we must thoroughly eradicate the soil in which rumors grow," Xinhua wrote at the time. "Concocting rumors is itself a social malady, and the spread of rumors across the Internet presents a massive social threat."

The news agency then called for "stronger Internet administration from the responsible agencies, raising the intensity of attacks on rumors."

It's not clear whether Sina Weibo acted on its own to remove user accounts or if the Chinese government requested it. Either way, it's clear that censorship isn't going away in China.