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Microblog regulates, suspends users - again

(CPJ/IFEX) - May 10, 2012 - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Madeline Earp/CPJ Senior Asia Research Associate

Pity those of us who monitor the ups and downs of China's popular microblog platform, Sina Weibo. For every story its users spread in defiance of local censorship, there follows a clampdown. Whether it's the latest strike against rumors, or real name registration, or newly banned keywords, there's always another restriction in the works as the service struggles to keep a lid on sensitive conversations without driving away its user base. "China tightens grip on social media," we might report, as the Financial Times did in April. And last October. (The U.K.-based newspaper also noted China's grip tightening on lawyers in March.) It's not that these headlines are misleading. They simply show how difficult it is to illustrate the grip that always tightens, but never quite suffocates.

To file under tightening grips and continuing clampdowns: Wednesday's news that a Weibo moderator posted a draft document outlining new guidelines for users, according to a translation of the content by Caijing magazine's English-language website. The contract restricts users from publishing information that "reveals national secrets," "spreads rumors," "disrupts social order," or "has other content which is forbidden by laws," among other regulations, according to the Caijing translation. These are terms favored by the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda department to justify censorship, and are vague enough to cover all kinds of sensitive content.

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