Weibo, the popular Chinese microblogging service similar to Twitter, just rewrote its terms of service, and freedom of speech advocates are alarmed. Weibo introduced a new rule that will dock points for “spreading rumours,” “harming the unity of the nation,” “endangering national unity” and “disrupting social order,” and ban users who rack up too many violations. (The controversial artist Ai Wei Wei has been banned repeatedly.) Users can also gain points by giving up more of their personal information.
The rules appear to be in response to pressure from the Chinese government, which carefully monitors what’s said on social media and news sites, qualifying it for Reporters Without Borders’ “Enemies of the Internet” list. “The government has also forced microblogging sites such as Sina Weibo, Sohu, NetEase, Hexun to hire moderators to monitor activity and ‘purge’ problematic content,” RWB says. The Chinese tech blog TechRice estimates Weibo has 65 to 70 million users.