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Two years of Chinese Weibo, highs, lows and all

(Global Times)

08:51, August 29, 2011

Sunday was the second anniversary of Sina Weibo, the microblog site which now counts more than 200 million users. On the same day, a new operation plan that slows down high-speed trains across China has been rolled out since Sunday in response to the deadly bullet train crash in July.

This dual event reflects Weibo's power. In the wake of the bullet train collision, Weibo witnessed an explosion of public skepticism about rescue operations, information transparency and the management of the high-speed rail system.

Demanding Weibo users, who closely followed the incident since the start, helped drive the government response and quicken an official response to the accident. The rescheduled operation plan is partly a result of mounting doubts on Weibo.

The emergence of Weibo promotes public interaction to an unprecedented level and enables limitless discussions on topics like the bullet train crash and the scandal surrounding the Red Cross Society of China. Weibo serves as a watershed mark for China's media environment.

But while heated debates arise on Weibo daily, rumors also multiply at the speed of the light.

After the bullet train clash, a Weibo user's message was widely reposted after claiming that her 100-day old baby was killed during the accident. Some netizens then sent money to comfort her.

However, it was later found out that the Weibo user made up the story and used a fake photo. Rumors stir up a public sense of insecurity, and amplify the gulf between different social classes.

Weibo brings changes to China, with good points and bad. But after all, it is a technological progress and a neutral tool. Those who make poor use of Weibo can become very passive, whereas those who avail themselves of its potential often take the initiative. It is in such a sense that the government and traditional media outlets should actively engage with Weibo.

As Weibo mirrors reality, all the problems that Weibo reflects exist in society. There are at least two things that the government and traditional media can do. First, to face up to these problems and keep the public informed. Second, to regularly publish authoritative information so as to nip rumors in the bud.

Weibo reflects or amplifies the weakness of the real world. A rational atmosphere of conversation is still lacking, and a set of rules, which both ensure Weibo users' freedom of expression and arouse their sense of responsibility, has not been established.

Before becoming a fully efficient, orderly platform, Weibo still has a long way to go. This will not only be a process of Weibo's growth, but also a process that sees greater civil awareness and sense of responsibility develop among average Chinese, as well as smarter governance by authorities.

Email|Print|Comments(Editor:梁军)

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