China Throws Net On Social Networkers As Censorship Issues Resurface

Chinese media company Sina has introduced a code of conduct for users of the local version of Twitter, as authorities seek to clampdown on political dissent online.

It has been ruled that users of Weibo, a microblogging site that has become a vibrant forum airing the grievances of the population, must not post messages that harm national unity, go against the principles of the constitution, disclose state secrets, or contain false information, among other rules.

Sina has also introduced a points system in which a user starts with 80 points and loses points for every violation. A score of zero results in a cancelled account, but a user can gain points for validating his or her real identity.

In a country where the Internet provides one of the few platforms for open discussion on political and social issues, users will be disappointed, though probably not surprised, with the latest restrictions.

One Weibo user commented, "New rules will be carried out on the 28th [of May], so I should publish my personal opinion on matters of state sovereignty, territorial integrity and social problems before then. After the 28th, I will just write about personal things".

With roughly 300 million users, Weibo has been a thorn in the side of the Chinese authorities who are keen to reign in disruptive conversation ahead of the 18th National Congress taking place this year - where a once-in-a-decade leadership handover is expected to be announced.

Another dismayed user has said of the new rules, "It gives Sina a firmer basis for expanding a ban on whatever is considered sensitive news. The definition of what counts as sensitive was always loose and it's expanding all the time. Of course, nowadays, they're worried because of all the scandal and rumours before the 18th Congress".

The sensitivity of the ruling Communist Party was demonstrated recently when censors blocked online searches for the name of Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing party boss cast out of the party's Central Committee.

Source: Reuters