Looking to control the use of social media by “dissidents” China is threatening to punish anyone caught disseminating information considered harmful to the state. This was the latest information released from the Communist Party in China. The message is aimed directed at micro-bloggers, the latest trend in China, but it stops short of saying exactly what punishment they face or what further steps will be taken.
Regardless, this move is sending a shiver down the backs of anyone looking to capitalize on the surge in micro-blogging within the world’s most populous nation. China already has the most extensive and powerful Internet censorship controls in the world. They can block sites at will, limit access to the Internet for any individual user or group of users and explicit demand that all online conversations be free of anything considered detrimental to the State.These controls have led to the increased use of micro-blogging sites like Sina Weibo to spread dissatisfaction with events inside the nation. The Chinese people are turning to micro-blogging to circumvent Internet controls, and the country has been slow to address this turning tide.
Not any more.
China and all of Asia is considered by many to be the next frontier when it comes to social media marketing efforts, opening an audience of billions of people, many of whom are finding themselves with more disposable income than ever before. This makes the market very attractive to anyone with a product or service they want to sell. It also makes the region attractive to anyone with a message they want to get out. The problem is that the Chinese government cares a great deal what people have to say about the situation inside their borders. That’s just a fact of modern day life in China and the people there have grown accustomed to it. Unfortunately, that sort of attitude flies in the face of those who are working hard to open Chinese markets to foreign investment, much of which is aimed at the social media industry.
Only time will tell exactly what these new micro-blogging controls will do the surge in mobile traffic in China. Until then China remains a very lucrative market for companies that know how to play by the local rules of the game.
Analysts believe that officials will not shut down social media sites because they are simply too popular, and closing them would create a backlash. Chinese authorities have sought to use social media proactively, launching their own accounts.
Instead, they are likely to step up pressure on the operators, who have large in-house teams of staff to monitor, block and remove sensitive content.
“The more important risk we see for Sina Weibo and other [microblogs] is that they self-regulate out of business [interests] … and that they self-neuter and that makes the platform so boring no one wants to use it,” said Michael Clendenin, managing director of RedTech Advisors, a research company.
Separately, Xinhua reported on Tuesday that authorities were stepping up efforts to prevent the spread of rumours online and punish those who share them. It cited a statement from the State Internet Information Office. The document said three people, including a website editor, had been punished for spreading rumours, with one Shanghai resident held by local police for 15 days. He had apparently posted a falsified tax document.
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