Microblogging: Air Conditioning of the Masses

In BBC News, Michael Bristow surveys China’s microblogging landscape and asks users of Sina Weibo for a view from the trenches of China’s information war:

The very first response was a simple icon, showing a face with a gag taping the mouth closed. Every now and then, the gag falls away and the mouth opens, as if speaking. The implication seems clear.

Another posting reads: “Microblogs mean people dare speak out – and can speak out. Everything changes when people start to speak the truth.”

As the activist Wang Lihong’s son said: “Microblogging is like air-conditioning: once you have it, you don’t know how you managed to survive without it.”

While recent crackdowns on netizens have turned fears of more restrictive Internet policy into reality, one government official has come under fire for his microblog as well. From China Daily:

Liu Weizhong, 54, director of the Gansu provincial Department of Health, was given the nickname “pig foot director” by netizens after advocating the medical benefits of pig feet on multiple microblog accounts.

His microblog posts wouldn’t necessarily draw criticism on their own, but a recent report by the China Youth Daily stated that a local government website posted Liu’s medical articles on its own website.

“These articles might possibly mislead the public, as they may believe that the Gansu provincial government is supporting Liu’s recommendations. Liu Weizhong should be responsible for this,” said Wang Yukai, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance.

See also recent coverage of microblogging in China, including new measures passed to oversee microblogs and limit online rumor-mongering.