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Chinese Microblogs Suspend Commenting to Prevent Rumors

Sina Weibo homepage

Sina Weibo homepage

On the 31st March 2012, Chinese netizens woke up to find the commenting function suspended without warning on both popular Chinese microblogging services Tencent Weibo and Sina Weibo.

From Wanjia News:

Clearing Up Rumours: Sina and Tencent Weibo Close Commenting Function

Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo today (31st) announced that they would be closing their comment functions from this morning until 8am 3rd March. At the same time, the National Internet Information Management Department closed 16 websites that create and spread rumours, whilst also singling out the microblogging websites of Sina and Tencent for being centres of rumour spreading.

The message shown to Weibo users after Weibo suspends commenting.

The announcement from Sina Weibo:

Weibo users: 

Recently there has been an increase in the amount of rumours and other illegal and harmful information appearing in microblog comments. In order to carry out a concentrated clean up of these comments, from 8am 31st March until 8am 3rd April we will be temporarily suspending the comment function on microblogs. Following this tidying up, we will restore the comment function. Carrying out this necessary clearing of information is in order to ensure a more beneficial interactive environment for everyone. We hope to have your understanding. Thank you to everyone for your support.

Sina Weibo
31st March 2012

The almost identical announcement from Tencent Weibo:

Dear users:

Recently rumours and other illegal and harmful information spread on microblogs have had an adverse impact on society, with harmful information spread through comments being relatively numerous. As such there is a need for a concentrated clean up. For this reason, we have made the decision to temporarily suspend the commenting function on our microblogging site from 8am 31st March until 8am 3rd April. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Tencent
31st March 2012

Famous netizens’ reactions on Sina Weibo:

张欣 (Zhang Xin, CEO of SOHO China):

A Weibo without a ‘comment’ function is going to end ‘rumours’? What’s the best way to end ‘rumours’? By being public and transparent. The more you stop people speaking, the more ‘rumours’ there’ll be.

李开复 (Li Kai-fu, founding president of Google China):

Sina and Tencent have closed their commenting functions until 3rd April. Make the most of this opportunity! All those things you wanted to post but were afraid of being criticised harshly for, you can now post!

Regular netizens’ reactions on Sina Weibo:

Foss_Cai:

Really don’t know what kind of tempest would be kicked up if the comment function were closed on Twitter. Haha! Our Party’s the boss!

Qxily:

Does everyone know that from the 31st March until the 3rd April, the commenting function on Weibo has been suspended? … Don’t tell me it’s because of Shu Qi. If it is, I hope things get better.

潶曼巴徔吻:

Sina Weibo, China’s greatest information (rumour) source is closing its commenting function for the next four days. This definitely isn’t a unilateral initiative of Sina’s. Don’t tell me something big is going to happen? Even bigger than what happened in Chongqing?!

mora橙:

Weibo’s temporarily suspending the commenting function, I think it’s probably because of the rumours about Beijing which spread like wildfire on Weibo. Sina and Tencent have both been fined … Poor fucking netizens.

泡泡i布丁:

Is stopping comments an April Fool’s joke?

Lunes7:

How are wumao going to make money if they can’t leave comments for the next few days? Why didn’t anyone consider their feelings?! Wumao have been ‘innocently’ punished by association.

Written by Alec O

Alec is a university student majoring in Chinese at SOAS, University of London. He's currently in his final year, and despite also speaking fluent Italian and Japanese, he sees his future in China and plans to move (back) to Beijing in the autumn of 2012.

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