China ends retaliation on social media sites

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bo Xilai is a former mayor and serves as party chief of Congqing.
Image: Voice of America.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

China lifted its three-day block on 16 of the country's Twitter-like services, including the two largest, which are Sina's and Tencent's microblogging sites.

China said it carried out the ban on the sites' commenting function because microbloggers were using the sites to spread conspiracy theories and rumors about the disappearance of politican Bo Xilai on March 15. Bo was once mayor of Dalia, the party chief of Chongqing, and thought to be a likely candidate for the China's elite Politburo Standing Committee. Bo vanished a short time after his former chief of police, Wang Lijun, had also been reported missing after he attempted to seek asylum in the United States through a consulate. The government said Wang had left due to stress. Bo's disappearance came to light when the microbloggers posted the news. China retaliated for what it called illegal chatter about Bo's disappearances and claims of military operations, weapons fire, and even a purported coup.

Sina and Tencent both referred to the government's action in statements as a "cleaning up" period. As many as 700 million subscribers were unable to comment on posts during the period of the block, although they were still able to write new messages and forward messages to others. The talk persisted through those two functions, especially the forwarding of messages. The block was not the only fallout from the incident as six people were taken into custody for fabrication and others were brought in for questioning.


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