Has Chinese law crippled Sina Weibo’s chance at world domination?

sina weibo

This week, Twitter received some very high (and much deserved) praise for standing up for one of its users against the New York state court. The state of NY wanted information on an Occupy Wall Street protester, Malcolm Harris. Harris’ efforts to fight against the court were struck down and so now Twitter has stepped in to the fight.

Compare that to another post which also came out this week about Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo.

According to Sina Weibo’s new policy:

Users have the right to publish information, but may not publish any information that:

1. Opposes the basic principles established by the constitution
2. Harms the unity, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of the nation
3. Reveals national secrets, endangers national security, or threatens the the honor or interests of the nation
4. Incites ethnic hatred or ethnic discrimination, undermines ethnic unity, or harms ethnic traditions and customs
5. Promotes evil teachings and superstitions
6. Spreads rumors, disrupts social order, and destroys societal stability
7. Promotes illicit activity, gambling, violence, or calls for the committing of crimes
8. Calls for disruption of social order through illegal gatherings, formation of organizations, protests, demonstrations, mass gatherings and assemblies
9. Has other content which is forbidden by laws, administrative regulations and national regulations.

Sina Weibo is in the process of instituting further restrictions against its users in order to comply with the Chinese government. I don’t bring this up to criticise the Chinese giant. It lives and operate in China. To do that companies have little choice but to comply with the government as even Google found out.

But I do find it a fascinating comparison between social networks (and by extension business and life) in both the US (and most of the Western World) and China.

Last year, international tech pundits were getting ready for a potential battle between the two social giants. But shortly thereafter China began clamping down on the service and requiring that people use their real names.

The anthropologist in me even thought the services and their slightly differing approaches would create a great comparison not just between the services but between the cultures in the US and China and which would do better on a global stage.

Today, Twitter is blocked in China and Sina Weibo probably has little hope of going international when the Chinese government has so much control over the service. I guess in the end the fact that the two services never had to compete head to head is a pretty strong statement about the two societies they represent.



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