China Readies New Microblogging Measures

The Chinese government looks set to roll out a series of recently-passed regulations targeting microblogs such as Weibo as part of its efforts to manage information flow and control the spread of rumors on the web, according to media scholars and industry elites.  From the South China Morning Post:

Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, has become a mighty conduit for sharing information, expressing political views, challenging officialdom and spreading rumours. Efforts to quell those rumours are being seen by some observers as a bid to close an avenue of anonymous digital dissent on the mainland.

The controls may include issuing licenses to those microblogging sites that “can effectively eliminate rumours”, Song said. “Just like a supermarket, the food safety watchdog would hardly allow the operation of a supermarket if it regularly sold counterfeit or poisonous food.”

Leading mainland internet expert Professor Li Yonggang said the government might target bloggers with more than 50,000 or 100,000 followers for tighter control.

As tighter control usually results in a withering of business, microblog operators are taking the issue seriously. A Guangzhou-based new media industry insider said a handful of top executives from various mainland microblog operators held a low-profile meeting in Guangzhou last month and discussed how to respond to the expected regulations.

The new controls reflect a growing concern among government leaders over dissent and perceived rumor mongering from an online population that now exceeds 500 million, as evidenced by recent crackdowns reported last week via CDT.