Written by: Mainland Blogger Jason Ng
Translated by: Michelle Fong
Editor notes: This article was first published in Simplified Chinese by a Mainland Blogger about Ten things impressed him the most about Weibo.com (新浪微博，Sina mircoblog , akin hybrid of Twitter and Facebook and being the most popular site in China.) which is the most popular microblog in China.
Even though IP is still being blocked currently, domain name is still being filtered as sensitive words, DNS is still contaminated, pictures may not display properly although they are stored in Flickr. There is no doubt, Weibo is currently the most discussed topic about China's Internet applications. As long as you connect to the Internet in China, you will have direct or indirect contact with it.
I was the first beta users of Weibo, but also one of the first users being blocked. Although I do not like it and do not agree with the values of its head, neither I was willing to take my initiative to speak at Weibo, as an Internet practitioner, I have to use this product. This article is not to blame Sina in line with the Government's censorship. In fact we all know the sorrow of the Chinese Internet practitioners. I would like to talk about my personal point of view toward Weibo, ten things impressed me the most, some are positive while some are not.
1. Widely influential
Weibo is being the most mentioned account in China's Internet, following the QQ (an instant communication application similar to MSN). No matter you oppose or support internet censorship, Weibo is influencing Chinese society. It is using a gentle way, but not weak, to change the way of social movements in China.
Anti-PX Demonstrations took place in Xiamen was 3 years earlier than the similar event in Dalian. Both were demonstrations against PX-plant projects, the two main differences were: more people took pictures by cell phones which contained Internet access while many people did live report on Weibo
Of course, you can say that this is the social revolution pushed by mobile internet, yet it is undeniable that without Weibo, Dalian PX events would not be widely spread in this way.
Moreover, the public showed their anger on weibo when two Express Rail trains collided in Zhejiang earlier this year..
In the past, similar social injustices discussion could only be found in internet Forums like Tianya (天涯論壇). However, nowadays many people will expose unfair things in Weibo, even though no one follow-up with them. For example, Qian mingqi ,who bombed the Huzhou’s government building, Jiangxi on May 26 this year. He hinted the bombings in Weibo beforehand, as well as expressed his bitter “reasoning”.
Due to the censorship, messages containing discontent with the government will eventually being scanned in Weibo. However, the speed of censorship is far behind of the transmission. The information has still been spread out.
The above-mentioned were a few large events showing the influence of Weibo. Other than that, it is easy to find at least one person using Weibo in the bus, subway, airport and office. One thing impressed me most is that when I had my high school reunion in my hometown during this Chinese New Year, I found almost every classmates has Weibo account even though they work in varies industries and rarely from IT sector.
2. Multi-level of censorship
An influential Internet product in China often means that it needs to have more input in censorship. In Weibo, the means of censorship is multi-level
- keywords scanned and posts deleted
It needs not to say that China has such measures in any social media networks. Many of my Weibo’s posts are gagged and deleted and Sina almost never give me any notice. In this field, Sina should learn from Wanyi (163.com) that they at least would send me a notice to express their regret on deleting my messages.
- one-way screen
People thought their posts are sent, and they also see the timeline on screen. But, their followers will never see it due to one-way screening. And of course the bloggers will never know.
- Review specific account
If an account always contains sensitive words, it will be listed which mean every single message will be reviewed before sending out. Unfortunately, reviewer’s standard is "it cannot make our site into trouble” instead of in accordance of local laws and regulations.
“Your post will be reviewed” will be displayed in your every single post. But the truth is that no post will pass the censorship and be publish.
- Warming notice from Weibo secretary
What is the difference between a Communist Party members and ordinary people after committing crime? Communist Party member may be dismissed from the party while an ordinary people may be put to jail.
In Weibo, if the “+V” (“V" is shown on the user name after it is verified) account has to be reviewed, he may receive a warm reminder from Weibo secretary, informing him not to send certain sensitive messages and what would the result be. An ordinary people’s account may be gagged or deleted.
- Delete account
This need not be explained, my account has been deleted.
- Delete account and cannot re-register
In some cases, you cannot use the deleted email to register a new one, nor re-register with the same ID.
- Shielded IP
When Sina thinks you violate the Weibo guideline, it will block your IP address from visiting.
3. Confusion of comment and forwarding function
In Weibo, its information structure contains "referred to”, “reply”, “comment”, “forward”, “forward and reply” as well as “reply and forward". These six functions lower the efficiency of spreading information.
On Twitter, each message, whether it is replying or referring to others, it is independent with each other. In other words, your message state will not be affected when the previous message has been change such as deleted.
However, Weibo’s replies and comments are not independent. If the user does not "reply and forward" or "comments and forward", when the parent message is deleted, this reply or comment will also be deleted.
Maybe the Chinese like to chat in a forum style, or Sina likes it in order to activate the discussions. But the fact is, this style made Weibo’s message structure chaotic and not easy to follow. It leads to inefficient message spread and “network marketing” which will be mentioned later.
4. Famous quotation
Many “famous quotation account” are found in Weibo.
These account users copy famous quotation and often have very high forwarding capacity. When these accounts accumulate a lot of fans (can be exceed a million), they can be used for marketing.
5. Plagiarism and “zombie fans”
In Weibo, plagiarism is easily found. The message does not use forward function nor state the original published site.
We may called them “zombie accounts”. At the beginning, it means those accounts which never post messages. These accounts are sold in very low price to those who need to increase fans within a short period. In order not to be distinguished, zombie controllers create archives, use automated programs or hire cheap labor to randomly pick out information from there and send out. The source of information for these collection is Weibo itself. Anyone who posted in Weibo are likely to “contribute” in these zombies account.
6. Poor network marketing
Every time someone follows you, Weibo will inform you. Yet, very often, you will find they only lead you to spam or zombie account.
- irrelevant forwards
Some accounts have a lot of fans and they use to mark profit. For example, a popular post is forwarded with advertisement.
7. Weibo dictatorship
I believe if the government can ask a website to delete user's information, that website can also easily removed its user's information, no matter if it is violating the law.
If your message offends Weibo, your message will also be deleted. In this May to June, a blogger Gu-ao translated an article and he suspected Sina Science and Technology copied his work. So he protested in Weibo but the post was deleted. Furthermore, many comments questioning Weibo and its editor were deleted as well. Gu-ao’s weibo is under one-way screening and all his contents have to be censored before release.
In Sina's site, you cannot make it unhappy. In such a dictating platform, will it tell you whether an action is taken out in accordance with relevant laws or Sina’s regulations? What can users do?
8. Helpless grass-roots
In the Qian-mingqi’s bombing case, he asked followers to forward his messages, which about his unfairly treated. Now after he caused the bombing, his account was deleted. His injustice story did not spread out before the tragedy since he did not have many followers.
I believe that Qian is not the only helpless grass-roots human- right defender who try to draw attention from Weibo. However, in Weibo, if a person cannot have a lot of “followers”, his messages cannot be spread out. This is different from the mechanism of the internet Forum which can draw attention if a post has higt hit-rate. So, how can grass-roots activists get attention quickly through Weibo ??
9. Played by Weibo as foolWeibo honours or certifies its users by added “V” in their account. has several level of users signified with “V” . However, each Weibo’s staff has his own standard to added V or delete V. I have been invited to add V at least four times. Meanwhile, my account was deleted V repeatedly and without explanation. It seems that Weibo is such a huge platform and it need not respect users.
10. Abuse of authority
This was a true story. Company A found a message at Weibo’s ”+V account” that was not true and might bring negative impact toward the company. More important, this message may let Company A under investigated by officials. At this moment employee B of company A called webmaster of Weibo S to delete this message. As a result, S sent notice via “Weibo secretary” and the message was deleted. This account user thought he was expressing opinion only and not against law. Weibo had no right to delete that. And I believe this is not a single case.
This is ten things of Weibo impressed me the most. Weibo has its significant while many negative things have to be solved, including junk messages, how to transmit information more efficiently, and most importantly, how to make this into a neutral platform.