world growth

world growth

Saturday, October 1, 2011

China’s online population hits 500-million

China’s online population, the largest in the world, has topped the half-billion mark, reports the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The agency quoted Wang Chen, chief of the information office of China’s state council as saying that more than 15-million people had gone online since the release of the last figures were released in July.

The continuing growth of China’s internet population and the rising use of online tools to criticise authorities has seen an increasing concern in Beijing about the internet’s potential as a tool for generating unrest.

The government blocks any content it considers politically sensitive in a vast system which has come to be known as the “Great Firewall of China”.

It has struggled to keep up the same stringent levels of control, however, over the increasingly popular microblogging platforms, or weibos.

The country has some 300-million microbloggers. The largest platform, Sina Weibo accounts for the majority of that number with around 200-million users.

The concern around the weibo’s first arose following a train crash in July, which killed 40 people. Sina Weibo users sent millions of messages criticising the government’s response to the crash.

The scale of the response saw various media outlets venturing to join in the criticism of the government. Even Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily urged the government to engage more with the public through the weibos.

Authorities responded by urging the weibos to take action against anyone found to be using the platform to “spread false rumours”.

Sina Weibo also received a visit from Beijing’s Communist Party chief Liu Qi, in which he said internet companies should “ensure the authenticity of information… to create a healthy online media atmosphere”

In the wake of this visit the microblogging platform began suspending the accounts of any users deemed to be spreading “false reports”.

The weibo platform allows for the rapid spread of information in a country where the media is tightly controlled by the communist authorities.

Authorities recently set up accounts on the weibos for around 5 000 of the country’s law enforcement officials.

It stated that the officers’ would be tasked with “ensuring social openness and dispelling misunderstandings” on the weibos.

Of China’s 500-million internet users, 130-million live in rural areas.

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