Did a Sina Weibo manager just divulge company censorship practices?
A remarkable message was published recently on Sina Weibo, supposedly written by a company manager who goes by @geniune_Yu_Yang — an account that has since been deleted. Prompted by perceived public misunderstanding of Sina Weibo’s handling of the Southern Weekly story, the writer posted a screenshot of text that illustrated the how and why of its censorship policy, which has been translated in full by Oiwan Lam of Global Voices.
My boss, Lao Shen’s [Sina] Weibo’s page is full of cursing. In particular, after the Southern Weekly incident had been reported by Netease [a popular web portal] extensively yesterday, attacks on Sina’s cowardice and its role as the running dog [of the Propaganda Department] reached a climax. I was so frustrated and finally fought with a famous online script-writer. After I cooled down, I reflected upon the whole thing, feeling the urge to write a long micro-blog to explain the situation in detail.
Charlie Custer of Tech in Asia elucidates:
While I have some doubts about the poster’s identity, there’s little doubt that much of what he or she wrote is true. Censorship really only hurts Sina by reducing their users numbers and annoying users, and it has been clear for quite some time that Sina sometimes tries to follow the letter of the law but not the spirit of it, erring in favor of more user freedom. But from the post quoted above, it also sounds like propaganda authorities are exercising an unprecedented level of control over the service. It’s impossible to be sure whether that’s true, but given the unprecedented controls being implemented for other parts of China’s internet, it certainly isn’t implausible.
Even with the disclaimer that the poster may not actually be a Sina employee, the original post and Custer’s are worth a read. If nothing else, you’ll come away with a more nuanced picture of how censorship works — and doesn’t work — in the PRC.