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Microblogging site Weibo reveals big changes after government rebuke

New layout emerges after week-long closure of trending topics section

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

A key feature of one of the most popular social sites in China has returned after government pressure forced Weibo to close part of the site for a week.

In late January, the microblogging site shut down Hot Search, its trending topics section. The reason? State media said Weibo failed to censor content that contradicts with Communist Party values, including vulgar and pornographic materials.

Now Hot Search has re-emerged with a difference: State propaganda articles are given prominence above other trends. On Monday morning, an article from state media titled “Rural Revitalization in the New Era” sat on top of the actual ranking.

A state-media article appeared at the top of Weibo’s Hot Topic List.
That ties in with a new section added called “New Era”. The name appears to be a reference to President Xi Jinping’s political ideology, enshrined in the party constitution last year. This section consists entirely of government-friendly content with titles like “Building a World-Class Military” and “China’s Powerful High-speed Rail”. Each article links to a state-sanctioned Weibo account.
Weibo’s “New Era” section
The Chinese government has long exercised censorship on media outlets through its Publicity Department. Cyberspace has now become a key battlefront, with topics once deemed harmless like celebrity news coming under Beijing’s internet clean-up campaign. More than 13,000 websites and nearly 10 million user accounts have been shut down in the last three years, according to the South China Morning Post.

Weibo users don’t seem too impressed with the changes.

“Filling the trending list with patriotic news: Is this the right way to bring positive energy to our society?” asked one user.

Another wrote, “Hot Search has come back, but it isn’t much fun anymore. The kind of news that made people laugh is now gone. There isn’t much on the trending list that I want to read.”


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