Rumor - Growing pain of Weibo

Updated:2011-11-10 11:20


Rumor - Growing pain of Weibo


Editor's Note,

In less than two years, Weibo, Chinese Twitter, has witnessed an explosive increase in users. More than 250 million Internet users have registered on Sina Weibo, China's twitter-style Internet service, said Charles Chao, President and CEO of Sina Corparation at a teleconference Wednesday morning.

Weibo is deemed the most open platform in China, yet it is experiencing the difficulties of growing too big too quick.

With power comes responsibility. Chinese Internet celebrities are organizing an online campagin to urge Weibo users responsible in exercising freedom of expression.

Editor: Zhao Chunzhe


Controlling the rumor mill  

Sina Weibo offers a special account Wiebo No Rumor dedicated to deleting or clarifying “false or misleading”stories. It has over 600,000 followers, and here are some of those clarified in recent weeks:

On Oct 25, two micro-bloggers wrote that the D301 train from Beijing to Fuzhou in Fujian province had derailed near Wenzhou. The capital's railway bureau quickly dispelled the rumor. The D301 had actually been canceled following the July 23 high-speed rail accident.

Rumor - Growing pain of Weibo

On Oct 25, a Sina user wrote that for every one of his messages forwarded by micro-bloggers, 3 jiao would go to a five-year-old boy who had been badly burned in an accident. It was later confirmed that the boy mentioned in the post had died in 2009.

On Oct 27, a user said that an elderly man who sold meals to market traders was tied to a car by urban management officers, also known as chengguan, in Xi'an, Shaanxi province. Following an investigation by Sina staff, it was discovered the man had tied himself to the car in protest over a dispute with chengguan.

On August 3, a message on Weibo said Li Yuchun, a famous talent show star, was said to cheat during blood donation for the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Gao Dongying, vice director of the Beijing Red Cross Blood Center, proved later that Li was sampled from her left arm and donated her blood from the right arm.

On October 6, a user said nine air hostesses from Southwest Airline were killed at their dormitory five kilometers southwest of Chongqing municipality. The Chongqing police bureau dispelled it as a rumor and said the Southwest Airline was recomposed in 2002.

A clear message 

Li Kaifu, ex-VP of Google, has called for users to help clear Weibo of false rumors by being more vigilant when forwarding messages, reported.

Li warned that forwarding messages is more of a responsibility than a right, drawing many Weibo users, including officials and celebrities, to echo the statement. 

On Oct 27, the Sina Weibo service group also showed their support by launching a Clear Weibo badge campaign. 

Li’s message has been forwarded for more than 160,000 times and the Clear Weibo badge had been sent 1,400,000 times as of Oct 28.


BEIJING - With millions of people sharing news and views every day through micro blogs, or Weibo, its no surprise that rumors spread so quickly. 

As director of "rumor control" for micro blog service Sina Weibo, Tan heads a small team that monitors posts and removes anything that turns out to be false. 

"The job is vital, as we want to protect the truth and maintain an unpolluted Web," he said in a phone interview on Wednesday. 

"There is a lot of information on Weibo, much of it eye-catching, which means it attracts a lot of people. Yet users are not always good at judging what is true and what is false. They can be easily misled."


Quotable quotes  

"For the sake of the survival of Weibo, we need to improve the Weibo environment."
--Zhang Xingsheng, The NatureRumor - Growing pain of Weibo Conservancy manager

"I think rumors are inevitable as the Weibo space is de facto a society where hundreds of million users crowd in. But if people learn to make their own judgments, the bad effect of rumors will ease up."
--Hu Yanping, Internet expert

When there is lagged information, rumors will find their roots. People may forward rumors when they are not informed of enough information. But facts will come out eventually. And the one who started the rumors will delete them. I say this is the purifying function of messages.

Weibo is similar to a shopping mall. Users are shopkeepers. What I do is to safeguard the mall, tell people when the business is open and closed. I can not stop the spread of rumors but I am striving to build a harmonious, equal and balanced platform. 
--Zhou Guojian

Not every innovation is progress. Microblog might be one of the most influential IT innovations in our age, but it does not necessarily benefit our life. It makes us easily neglect to think what deserves to be known, what we do need to know. It makes us feel like knowing too much, while most of which is indeed ephemeral and insubstantial.

We have too much information on Internet and too limited time to spend alone. We need to focus on thinking, judging and selecting what is important from cyber space, not dissolving our being to a list of 140 bytes of trivial and meaningless digital footnotes,.

But do we need to restrict Weibo? No, no need to do so. Because most people, even those enthusiasts, would find it uninteresting finally. And it will pass away naturally, I believe, like any insubstantial innovation.  --Andrew Zhao, PhD.