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CRACKDOWN: China’s Censors Scramble to Contain Online Fallout After Tianjin Blast

censorcop

Censorship rates on Weibo up tenfold after the Tianjin blast 

Eva DouEva-Dou reports: The Tianjin warehouse explosion has horrified and gripped China’s netizens, with the topic racking up more views on social network Weibo than the country’s total population of nearly 1.4 billion.

It’s also sent the country’s Internet censors scrambling to make sure online discussion stays within approved confines.

TIANJI-skybox-WSJ

Censorship rates on Weibo were up tenfold after the Tianjin blast compared to earlier in the month, said King-wa Fu, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s journalism school who built censorship tracker Weiboscope.

Censorship of traditional and social media is common in China after disasters and has actually been looser this time than in some other recent tragedies. Whereas China’s local newspapers turned into clones after the capsizing of a ship on the Yangtze River in June, Chinese media reports on the explosion in Tianjin’s Tanggu district have been more varied. Discussion of the topic has also been widespread on social media.

[Read more here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

But some online comments go too far, such as those that criticize the government’s response or discuss the chemicals inside the warehouse, which officials say they have not yet been able to identify. Those types of postings have been scrubbed, according to Weiboscope and another censorship-tracking site, Free Weibo.

A few examples of short-lived Weibo posts:

  • “#TangguExplosionTruth The words are harsh, but they make sense! Who will take responsibility?! Why would a warehouse full of dangerous materials be located right near residential areas?! The Tianjin city press conference this afternoon was like not having one at all.” …(more here)

One anonymous poster online defended the station, claiming that it sent more than 100 journalists to the site of the explosion Wednesday night but was restricted from reporting by China’s broadcasting regulator….(read more)

China Real Time Report – WSJ

–Eva Dou. Follow her on Twitter @evadou.

 

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