Chinese micro-blogging sites have become the latest target of Beijing’s internet police, which have ordered companies providing Twitter-like services to step up monitoring and purge sites of politically “sensitive” words and expressions.
In the last week, most of the largest and most popular micro-blogging websites in China have been shut down for “maintenance” or have switched to “beta” or “testing” versions.
These backup websites are being used while the companies “strengthen their self-censorship systems” and remove all politically sensitive content under orders from Chinese internet authorities, according to employees at some of those companies.
The micro-blogging site run by the popular Chinese portal Netease was unavailable on Wednesday , replaced with a notice saying the site had been “under maintenance” since 7pm on Tuesday.
The Twitter-like service provided by leading internet portal Sohu was also closedfor “maintenance” over the entire weekend but reopened on Monday morning.
Other companies that have switched to “beta” or “testing” versions of their micro-blogging sites include Sina, which claims to have 20m registered micro-bloggers, as well as Tencent, QQ and even the micro-blog site of the People’s Daily website, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party.
Popular US micro-blog and social networking sites including Twitter, Facebook and Youtube have all been banned in China since last year but domestic imitators have been allowed to flourish, provided they observe the government’s stringent self-censorship requirements.