Sina Weibo Rapidly Deleting Microblogs
Sina Weibo, China’s largest microblogging
operator, currently has 500 million users.
It issues hundreds of millions of daily postings.
Recently, U.S. media exposed the inside
story of rapid deletion of Sina Weibo postings.
It reported that 30% of posts would
be deleted within 5-30 minutes.
How can Sina delete posts so rapidly?
Who is in control of this big machine?
Dan Wallach, Professor of Computer Science
at Rice University, along with colleagues,
collected millions of posts from Sina.
After further analysis and identification of
deletion and posting, they published their
results in the MIT Technology Review
The research focused on 3,500 user accounts, with
posts deleted between July 20 to September 8, 2012.
15 days of tracking observation
showed 4,500 posts were deleted.
That accounts for 12% of the total postings.
5% were deleted within 8 minutes of posting, 30%
within 30 minutes, and 90% were within 24 hours.
After deletion, the website showed the
warning, “microblog unfit for public viewing.”
When posts were deleted by users themselves,
the website would show “post does not exist.”
Some posts were deleted within 5-10 minutes,
showing the censorship is almost simultaneous.
One web user pointed out that if deletion fails,
they can also close or delete your account:
“My number was often blocked during
the two sessions, or the 18th Congress.
They were afraid that I said something
unpleasant, so they closed my account.
If they forbid others to express themselves
online, people can go on to the streets to talk.
When freedom of speech has been taken away,
people can express themselves in actions.”
Zan Aizong, an independent reporter and freelance writer,
whose account has been deleted often by Sina, says
that Sina deletes users’ account, without informing them.
Sina does it directly, and often
repeatedly to stop you from talking.
Zan Aizong: “Sina is very shameless. The
regime is supporting it, so it can be very blatant.
Without the backing of the regime, it would
have been shut down or paid a severe penalty.
For example, if you close users’
accounts, they will ask for compensation.
If everyone asks for 10-20,000
yuan, Sina will be broke soon.”
It is reported that Beijing has established
nine “party organization” focus websites.
“Baidu", “Sina" and “First Video"
all have party committees.
Among the 26 websites in the Beijing region, Baidu and
Sina Weibo are pioneers for “setting up party organizations.”
Beijing human rights activist Li Jincheng points out
that “Sina" has party branches all over the country.
Deletion of postings is a political
task for the Party officials.
Li Jincheng: “As long as you are behind the
government, you can keep your postings.
If you criticize the government, or disclose
something to the outside world, the so-called
‘sensitive information’, it is immediately deleted.
They are monitoring key personalities.”
Sina Weibo has many users, and an
average of 70,000 new posts every minute.
Researchers estimate that a Sina censorship
inspector reads 50 blogs per minute.
It would need 1400 people to scan 70,000 posts.
If staff work 8 hours per day, a total of 4200
people would be required to meet reviewing needs.
How does Sina delete sensitive postings so quickly?
Researchers speculate that it is
being done by a review system.
Using manpower and software, lists of keywords, and
search filter systems, a complex deletion system is created.
Zan Aizong points out that Sina is a huge
company, with branch offices everywhere.
It recruits more than 30,000 managers, and there
is a large team for monitoring microblogs alone.
When maintaining stability is the regime’s first task,
authorities will be unscrupulous with deletion of postings.