Chinese Authorities Wring Their Hands Over Sina Weibo’s Growth

Chinese web company Sina’s micro-blogging service Weibo is known as “China’s Twitter,” but the service’s usage patterns are fundamentally different from Twitter, report a trio of researchers from HP Labs.

“We find that there is a vast difference in the content shared in China, when compared to a global social networks such as Twitter,” according to Louis Yu, Sitaram Asur and Bernardo A. Huberman of HP’s Social Computing Lab.The researchers came up with three key findings, reports The Financial Times.

  • Chinese microbloggers mostly re-tweet jokes, images and stories but, Twitter’s users focus on current affairs and news content.

  • Trend setters on Weibo are unverified news accounts that act as discussion forums for “funny pictures, jokes and stores,” as opposed to news media stories, accoring to the FT.

  • Weibo users re-tweet things at a vastly higher rate than Twitter users.

As Idea Lab has previously noted, the rapid uptake of Sina Weibo in China is fascinating because of its potential to undermine the authorities’ control over the flow of information.

The FT shows that the authorities continue to worry about the trend.

“Earlier this week, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences warned in its annual report on the development of new media in China that microblogs had become one of the main original sources of information that aroused public opinion last year, and identified this as a certain risk to ‘ideological security.’

The Chinese government’s dilemma is all the more fascinating because many companies in China are looking to Weibo and its phenomenal re-tweeting rates as a great viral marketing tool.

The big question is whether Weibo or the government’s army of online censors are going to be able to keep up and filter all the information that they consider unsanitary without killing the utility of the service.

Perhaps Cisco can help.

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