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China tops world in microblog user numbers: report

By Liu Sheng (Global Times)

08:38, October 09, 2012

With over 274 million users, China became the country with the most microblog users in the world by the end of June, according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CINIC) and the 2012 Blue Book of New Media.

The latest Blue Book, recently released by the China Social Science Academic Press, pointed out that China entered a stage of rapid growth for microblogs in 2011, boasting the most users and websites.

The number of Chinese microblog users in June increased by 9.5 percent compared to the end of 2011, according to CINIC.

China has more than 50 websites offering Twitter-like microblogging services. The various microblog providers reflect China's massive activity and free competitive environment, the book said.

It said a growing number of government agencies and officials in China are using microblogging services as platforms to interact with and influence the public, ushering a new era of China's new media politics and social governance.

By the end of October 2011, over 18,132 government agencies' and officials' accounts had been verified on microblog platforms, according to the book.

According to Xie Yungeng, director of the public opinion study laboratory at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the government and officials are becoming increasingly willing to release important information online, and are using more lively and friendly language that is popular with Internet users.

But the boom in new media also has negative effects, such as creating room for rumor mongering and personal attacks, since laws and regulations always lag far behind technological developments.

Rumors spread on microblogs in 2011 increased as much as eightfold compared to 2010, according to the public opinion study laboratory at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

"Concerns or worries among the public can easily cause rumors," Gu Xiaoming, a sociology professor with Fudan University, told the Global Times.

The most effective way to refute rumors on the Internet is for local governments and authorities to release information as soon as the rumors begin to spread, he said.

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