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Weibo, WeChat, Baidu under Investigation For “Violating Internet Laws”

China’s tech giants Tencent, Sina Weibo and Baidu are being investigated by China’s Office for Cyberspace Administration for “violating internet laws.” Chinese netizens respond with cynicism: “Just close them down and let’s all read the People’s Daily.”

Manya Koetse

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China’s WeChat, Sina Weibo, and Baidu are being investigated by China’s Office for Cyberspace Administration for “violating internet laws.” Chinese netizens respond with cynicism: “Just close them down and let’s all read People’s Daily.”

On the morning of August 11, the Cyberspace Administration of China issued a notice saying that Tencent’s Wechat, Sina Weibo, and Baidu’s Tieba (the online forum platform) are all under investigation for violating China’s “Internet Security Laws” (网络安全法).

Several state media, including Xinhua, reported that users of the social media platforms have filed reports for the spread of “violent terrorism” (暴力恐怖), false rumors and obscenities, allegedly forming a threat to China’s national security, public safety, and social order.

Baidu responded to the allegations on Friday with apologies, saying it will actively cooperate with the relevant government departments to rectify its wrongdoings and further increase its efforts to shut out bad information, Sohu News reported.

Out of the three, it is Baidu that is most criticized by Weibo’s netizens. China’s tech giant has repeatedly caused controversy over the past two years. In May of 2016, the Baidu search engine was under fire after the death of a 21-year-old cancer patient who paid a lot of money for ineffective treatments advertised through Baidu’s paid search results.

Just last month, Baidu Maps was criticized for directing people to the wrong hospital when searching for Shenzhen’s children’s hospital. The hospital people were instead directed to, is one that is privately owned by the Putian Medical Group – which also happens to be Baidu’s important advertiser.

Now it is Baidu Tieba, its online web forum network, that is targeted by authorities, along with messaging and social media platforms Weibo and WeChat. Due to overall contempt for Baidu, many netizens agree with a tighter control on Baidu’s forums: “They should’ve been closed a long time ago,” some say.

But overall, the investigation of the platforms triggered much cynicism on Weibo, where some said: “Just close down everything and let’s watch CCTV every day,” or “I totally agree [with this investigation], it’s enough for us to read People’s Daily and watch state television.”

Others wrote: “Down with the Three Evil Tyrants of the Internet!”

“We already can’t say anything, why would they need to investigate?”, some wonder.

Following the news about a further investigation into China’s three tech giants, China’s financial newspaper Caijing reported that the stocks of all three companies went down on Friday.

Over the past few month, authorities have strengthened control on online and popular media in various ways. In late June, new rules regarding the content of online videos banned, among others, “displays of homosexuality.” Earlier this week, regulators issued a notification that television channels were discouraged from broadcasting entertainment shows during prime time.

The strengthening of content control is often extra noticeable before big political events. China’s 19th Party Congress will take place this fall.

By Manya Koetse

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©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Digital

“Taobao Life”: This Feature Shows How Much Money You’ve Spent on Taobao

Some users just found out they could’ve bought a house with the money they’ve spent on Taobao.

Manya Koetse

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Over the past few days, a new Taobao feature that allows users to see how much money they have spent on the online shopping platform is flooding Chinese social media.

Taobao Marketplace is China’s biggest online shopping platform. Owned by tech giant Alibaba, Taobao was launched in 2003 to facilitate consumer-to-consumer retail.

For many people, Taobao shopping has become part of their everyday life. Whether it is clothes, pet food, accessories, electronics, furniture – you name it, Taobao has it.

Because buying on Taobao is so easy, fast, and convenient, many online consumers lose track of how much they actually spent on the platform – especially if they have been using it for years already.

Thanks to “Taobao Life,” users can now see the total amount of money spent on their account.

How to do it? First: go to Taobao settings and click the profile account as indicated below.

Image by whatsonweibo.com

Then click the top icon that says “Achievement” (成就).

Image by whatsonweibo.com

And here you find what you have spent in this account in total. On the left: the money spent, on the right: the amount of purchases.

Image by whatsonweibo.com

Since I’ve used started using this Taobao account for the occasional clothes shopping since 2016, I’ve made 122 purchases, spending 7849 yuan ($1140) – a very reasonable amount compared to some other Taobao users, who are now finding out they could have practically bought an apartment with the money they have spent on Taobao.

This user, for example, found out they spent over half a million yuan on Taobao ($75,500).

Image via whatsonweibo.com

This user below has spent over 1,1 million yuan on Taobao ($170,000).

Some people discuss all the things they could have bought with the money they have spent on Taobao over the years: “As soon as I saw the number, I wanted to cry,” one Weibo user writes: “What have I done?!”

Another person, finding out they have spent 230,000 yuan on Taobao ($33,400), writes: “This can’t be true! Surely this must be a mistake!?”

“If I wouldn’t have spent all this money on Taobao, I would’ve been rich,” others say.

The topic of Taobao’s total spending amount has become so popular on Chinese social media this week, causing so much consternation, that Taobao posted a message on its Weibo account on July 27, writing: “We heard you guys couldn’t sleep last night..”

Although many people are shocked to find out the money they’ve spent on Taobao, others console themselves with the thought that adding up everything they have spent on Taobao, they were actually ‘rich’ at some point in their lives.

 

By Manya Koetse , with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Digital

Summer Censorship: Weibo Launches “Project Sky Blue”

No hot summer on Weibo: the social media network announces extra censorship on ‘vulgar content.’

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Earlier this week, the administration of Sina Weibo announced a special summer holiday crackdown on “vulgar content,” including “pornographic novels, erotic anime, pictures or videos.”

In a public announcement that was posted on July 4th, the Weibo administration writes that the primary goal of this campaign is to “create a healthier, more positive environment for underage users” during the summer break period.

The censorship plan is titled “Project Deep Blue” (or: “Project Sky Blue”) (蔚蓝计划), and will use filter systems, human moderators and user reports to censor more content for the upcoming two months.

The project even has its own Weibo account now, where Weibo users can ask questions, report inappropriate content, and get more information on the campaign.

Weibo states it will further expand its team of online content supervisors, and also explicitly encourages netizens to flag ‘inappropriate’ content to make the online community ‘more wholesome.’

The hashtag #ProjectDeepBlue (#蔚蓝计划#) topped the hot search lists on Weibo this week; not necessarily because of the topic’s popularity, but because it was placed there by the social media site’s administration. At time of writing, the hashtag page has attracted more than 180 million views.

Online responses to the summer censorship program are mixed: many commenters voice their support for the latest measure, while others express frustration.

One Weibo user from Hubei calls the latest measure “hypocritical,” arguing that minors surf Weibo just as much during school time as during the summer holiday – suggesting that launching a special censorship program for the summer vacation does not make sense at all.

But many popular comments are in favor of the project, saying: “I support Project Deep Blue, the internet needs to be cleaned up,” and: “China’s young people need to be protected.”

This is not the first time Weibo launches a special intensified censorship program. Throughout the years, it has repeatedly carried out ‘anti-pornography‘ campaigns in cooperation with Chinese cyberspace authorities.

Often, the crusade against ‘vulgar’ content also ends up being used for the purpose of censoring political content rather than to actually eradicate ‘obscenities’ (read more).

By now, it seems that many Weibo users are quite actively using the Project Deep Blue tag to report on other users who are posting violent or vulgar content.

“If you’re not careful, you’re hit with vulgar and obscene content the moment you’re on the internet,” well-known mom blogger Humapanpan (@虎妈潘潘) writes: “Now that the summer holiday is coming, I hope we can join the Project Deep Blue, and clean up the internet environment.  Actively report obscene content the moment you see it – let’s protect our future together.”

By Skylar Xu & Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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