Hu Yong: What Government Microblogs Do (and Don’t) Mean

Journalist and Internet analyst Hu Yong writes for China Media Project:

Back in May 2010, when Guangdong province had just opened up the first Public Security Bureau [police] microblog in the whole country, I wrote a piece called “Three Recommendations for Government Microblogs” and talked about three principles I thought government offices should abide by to properly make use of microblogs. The first was, “face comments head on” (直面评论), which I meant to deal with the way some prefectural-level police departments were limiting comment functions purely out of fear once their microblogs were up and running. Second, dealing with the way some police microblogs were too thick with official jargon or propaganda, I offered the “please speak human language” (请讲人话) principle. Third, I emphasized that actions speak louder than words, and said that if [the government] made much of this so-called “microblog-based policy discussion” (微博问政), then it was crucial that questions be answered once they were asked — they must implement and follow through on the principle of “results above all else” (结果为上).

The results of a recent online study by The Beijing News on the topic, “What change can the trend of official microblogs bring?” suggested that these three principles are of real concern to web users.

For example, to the question “What change can the trend of official microblogs bring?”, 46 percent of those surveyed selected the response option saying microblogs could help officials “learn how to speak properly” (学会好好说话) — meaning microblogs could help them discard official-speak and pre-packaged Party jargon and speak like human beings. 45.7 percent of people responded that opening microblogs would mean “mostly putting on shows, with little real influence.” 36.8 percent believed government microblogs generally were “only set-up, but did not allow comments or interaction, so mean little.”

Certainly, what is the purpose of participating in an interactive medium if you don’t want to interact?


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