Last night,TechinAsia reported that internet companies like Sina and Tencent would be punished for permitting the spread of online rumors (most likely referring to rumors of a Beijing coup and perhaps speculation over a Beijing Ferrari crash). This report came from Xinhua citing a spokesman from China’s National Internet Information Office. Well today it looks like we know at least part of what that punishment is. This notice was posted on Weibo this morning:
Recently on the comments threads there’s been rumors and other illegal and harmful information. In order to concentrate on cleaning up, from 8:00 on March 31st to 8:00 April 3, the comments functions will be suspended. After cleaning we’ll re-open the function.This cleaning is necessary and aims to provide a better communication environment for users. Hope you understand. Thank you for your support
As far as “punishments” go, this seems pretty light – if it is in fact government imposed. This just means that when somebody posts something, other Weibo users won’t be able to comment on it. As Kaiser Kuo tweeted, this essentially just makes it like Twitter for the next 72 hours. It’s perhaps a gentle – yet very visible – slap of the company that hasn’t seemed to be taking it’s censorship responsibility very seriously.
Interestingly though, on one of my Weibo accounts I still haven’t complied with the real name registration requirement imposed by the government that was supposed to take effect March 16th, yet today I’m still able to tweet. Many have noticed this over the past two weeks, and at this point, it’s probably safe to say it isn’t a glitch. We’ll see if this among the things that get “cleaned up” over the next 72 hours at Weibo.
UPDATE: Netizens have already begun mocking this measure. Here are three posts that are fairly representative of what many Weibo users are saying on the issue:
“Good for you! For the next three days nobody can criticize my posts.”
“…Now I’ll just switch to the “Forward” function…”
“Is this a big April Fools joke?”