A Crackdown on the Chinese Internet

The government restricted service on two popular microblogs over the weekend

2 min read
A Crackdown on the Chinese Internet

This weekend, the Chinese government cracked down hard on two microblog services, Sina Weibo and Tencent's QQ Weibo. (The image shows their mascots, muzzled.)

On the Chinese Internet, microblogs have become enormously important. These services, which are essentially enriched versions of Twitter, have become the Chinese netizens' primary way to discuss political matters, comment on scandals and rumors, and express themselves. IEEE Spectrum recently explored the growing power and the internal threat posed by the biggest Chinese microblog service, Sina Weibo, in the article "What Are You Allowed to Say on China's Social Networks?" There are now more than 300 million users on Sina Weibo.

On Friday, the two services posted identical notices saying that users could still tweet and retweet material, but they could no longer comment on other users' tweets, thus shutting down the lively conversational aspect of the services. China's official news agency said the action was taken to punish the microblog services for allowing rumors to spread. The comment ban is expected to be lifted on Tuesday, April 3.

Many Chinese netizens (as they call themselves) have been waiting for some kind of axe to fall. This winter, the Chinese government announced that all microblog users would be required to register their accounts under their real names (although they could continue to use pseudonyms as screen names). The regulations also required microblog services to review the posts of users who have more than 100,000 followers, and to delete any posts that harmed national interests. The deadline for real-name registration was set at March 16, a date that bloggers took to calling "weipocalypse."

But that deadline came and went, and users who hadn't registered their real names continued to use the services. It's not clear why. At the excellent blog Tech in Asia, C. Custer wonders whether Sina Weibo failed to enforce the restrictions in order to test the government's resolve.

The Conversation (0)

Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
Horizontal
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres
LightBlue

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

Keep Reading ↓Show less