China kills off discussion on Weibo after internet crackdown

Exclusive: An aggressive crackdown on Sina Weibo has seen numbers of postings on the Twitter-like microblogging site plummet according to research commissioned by the Telegraph

China has succeeded in neutering the country’s most free-flowing and important source of news and opinion according to new research which shows a dramatic drop in activity on the online phenomenon Sina Weibo.

The Telegraph asked Professor Qian Weining and researchers at the Institute for Data Science and Engineering of East China Normal University to analyse a sample of 1.6 million Weibo users from the beginning of 2011 to the end of last year.

..Nevertheless, Weibo remained resilient; it was still the only way for the Chinese public to air its grievances and absorb information which had not come from the dead hand of the state media.

In June last year, however, the Party changed tack. To great effect, it began arresting hundreds of users posting “rumours” on Weibo.

Many of Weibo’s former devotees have been seduced by WeChat, a Chinese version of WhatsApp. This mobile app allows users to instant message their friends, either individually or in groups.

Instead of airing controversial opinions publicly, WeChat affords privacy, said Zhang Lifan.

“Weibo is public facing, where lots of potential strangers can see the information you share,” said Mr Zhang. “But on WeChat you can share to a small circle of people, which is safer. Of course it can still be censored,” he said.

For the Communist party, the impact of WeChat is also much more manageable: news cannot go viral.

The Telegraph – By ,Beijing, graphics by Joel Gunter and Mark Oliver

8:00PM GMT 30 Jan 2014

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