Clampdown rumored as China "twitter" sites down

SHANGHAI Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:58am EDT

Customers use computers at an internet cafe in Hefei, Anhui province in this January 25, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer

Customers use computers at an internet cafe in Hefei, Anhui province in this January 25, 2010 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese social networking websites that provide Twitter-like services have suddenly reverted to testing mode and access has been spotty amid reports of a government clampdown.

Although Twitter has been banned for more than a year in China, Chinese Internet companies have been quick to fill the void, providing microblogging services that allow users to post frequent updates and follow other posters.

On Wednesday, NetEase.com Inc's microblog (t.163.com) was inaccessible. A notice said the site had been down since 7 p.m. on Tuesday and was under maintenance.

Sohu.com Inc's microblog (t.sohu.com) was also shut down for more than a day earlier in the week and all Chinese "twitters" now display the notice "in testing mode."

Company sources told Reuters that the developments were the result of tightened government controls over the new services.

"Nobody will publicly announce the reason, but it is as obvious as a fly on a bald head," one source said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post cited unnamed "industry sources" as saying that the websites were under pressure from Chinese censors.

News content on Chinese Internet websites is under intense government censorship, and online news editors with major Internet portals often receive dictats from the government on what can and cannot be published. But the new microblogs of Internet portals, with less government censorship, have proved to be freer for carrying news and comments.

Nevertheless, in July 2009 Fanfou.com, a budding replica of Twitter, was shut down by the government amid a major campaign to tighten Internet controls.

Beijing has been trying to tighten controls on the country's booming Internet industry, the world's largest by users, since the second half of last year, introducing new regulations concerning online gaming, online mapping and e-commerce.

Sina Corp, China's largest Internet portal, launched a microblog in August last year. Yet, earlier this week, the company put an "in testing mode" notice on the website.

"We are constantly upgrading the site. Even though we launched in August last year it is still in testing mode," said Sina spokesman Liu Qi.

Sina and NetEase both denied government intervention and said the notices and sporadic site access were due to upgrading of features.

"NetEase's micro-blog is very popular and growing fast, so we had to perform maintenance to upgrade features," said NetEase spokesman Liu Youcai.

Sohu could not be reached for comment.

(Editing by Chris Lewis and Alex Richardson)

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Comments (10)
Benny_Acosta wrote:
China simply does not want it’s people to speak freely and openly about anything.

It’s true that in our country there are things we can’t say such as threatening the life of the President, or calling in bomb threats and such. But in China, even personal opinions that go against the party line are considered to be subversive.

The “People’s Republic” doesn’t want the people to speak. The “People’s Republic” is NOT a republic at all. And it actually makes China look quite comical when it calls itself something it’s not.

It’s like a child pretending to be Batman. You know he’s not Batman, but you let him enjoy his fantasy for a while. China is the ONLY one that doesn’t realize that every country around it already knows it’s not a republic at all. But we in th U.S. continue to treat it as though it is.

Apparently the government of China fears it’s own people and their conversations more than it fears anything else.

Jul 14, 2010 9:41am EDT  --  Report as abuse
birdy wrote:
obviously,you don’t know chinese word and you never see Chinese portal site.We chinese people reprove the goverment everyday,EVERYDAY.
You can see it by yourself if you know chinese language.
like qq.com(the biggest portal site of the world) 163.com

Jul 14, 2010 12:41pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Spacetime wrote:
Don’t treat those US guys like Benny_Acosta too seriously. They just imagine people in other countries live in the hell — that feeling makes them happy, as they feel they are the only ones who don’t live in the hell. This is especially important when China has been growing extremely rapidly for more than 30 years, and US cannot beat that; they need to convince themselves they live better than others. Anyway, that’s not their own fault; that’s what their media told them.

Jul 14, 2010 2:27pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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