Top Chinese Twitter-like site shuts down user accounts for political rumors

China has been cracking down on rumors following a political controversy involving a former top official

A top Chinese microblogging site has closed several user accounts for allegedly spreading political rumors, part of an ongoing government-backed campaign to scrub social networking sites of sensitive political talk.

Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like service with more than 300 million registered users, issued a notice on Tuesday stating that certain "lawbreakers" had used the platform to spread malicious rumors that would negatively affect society. Four user accounts were also shut down including that of a financial journalist now believed to be detained for sparking the rumors.

"Sina Weibo calls on all netizens to abide by the laws and regulations, to not spread or state rumors, and to report rumors when discovered," the notice said, adding that this would protect the Internet and maintain societal order.

China has launched an ongoing crackdown on online rumors following a political controversy involving former top official Bo Xilai, who has been linked to possible corruption and the murder of a British businessman.

Days after Bo was removed from his position, financial journalist Li Delin posted on Sina Weibo that military vehicles were everywhere along a street in Beijing. Later the Chinese government said Internet users had been fabricating rumors about military vehicles in the city. In response, authorities took down more than 210,000 online posts and detained six people, without specifying their names.

China already heavily censors the Internet for any anti-government content, resulting in foreign sites including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube being blocked in the country. But despite those measures, domestic microblogging sites such as Sina Weibo have still managed to become forums for Chinese Internet users to talk about sensitive topics.

Sina, which operates the microblogging site, could not be reached for comment. The company is working to implement a real-name registration policy on the site, in which users who want to post on the site must have registered with their real identity.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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