Sina may block posting of 'rumours'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2011, 12:00am


Sina, the operator of China's massively popular microblogging service, Weibo, may introduce a 'credibility system' in which users who post rumours would be 'penalised' and their influence 'removed'.

No details were given.

Authorities have pressured Weibo's operators recently to curb online rumours, prompting fears among internet users the government was preparing to tighten its control on Weibo, which is similar to Twitter.

Charles Chao, president of Sina Corporation, said the company had been working in recent months on ways to curb 'untruthful rumours'. They 'posed serious challenges to the ability of the government to govern and also to suppliers of the [Weibo] platform like us', he told the China Digital Media Summit in Beijing yesterday.

A 'credibility system', Chao said, would be similar to how online shopping site Taobao rates its clients, but he did not elaborate on how it would work. He hoped the mechanism would 'allow valuable information to spread and penalise people who post or often post rumours'.

Chao said some users posted rumours on Weibo with 'malign motives', while limitations on the number of characters that can be posted in Weibo entries also makes it difficult for users to tell people the whole story.

'Because of these factors, many times the information and incidents that circulate on Weibo are misleading and distorted and bring about a very negative impact,' Chao said.

Facebook and Twitter are banned on the mainland, but the government allows home-grown versions such as Weibo, which has more than 200 million users. Such sites provide officials with a means to gauge public opinion while allowing people room to express opinions.

Chao did not explain what rumours prompted the company to consider the screening system. But he said he was aware that many postings about the deadly train crash in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, in July were wrong.

Weibo was abuzz after the crash, as many queried whether the government had tried to cover up the death toll and evidence.

Beijing party secretary Liu Qi visited Sina Weibo last month, prompting speculation authorities would tighten their grip on it.

Professor Qiao Mu, director of the International Communication Research Centre at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said: 'Such a system is not necessary ... as cyberspace itself is a mixture of truth and lies.'