China Promises Severe Control on Social Media

China promises to intensify its control over online social media and instant messaging tools, the ruling Communist Party said in an agenda-setting document, marking the government’s highest-level reaction so far to the explosive growth of microblogs.

Beijing’s swear to strengthen Internet administration, and only endorse content that is acceptable to the ruling party appeared in the communique of the latest party leadership conclave published in the official People’s Daily on Wednesday.

Communiques from the Communist Party’s Central Committee, holding its yearly meeting this month, set the broad agenda for policy-makers. This one made clear that party leaders looks for ways in better  controlling, not snuff out, the microblog services, which  have become wildly popular channels for distributing news and opinion that can upset the government.

Bolster guidance and administration of social Internet services and instant communications tools, and normalize the orderly distribution of information,” said the communique that made no recommendation to microblogs as such.

The statement builds on a stream of warnings in state media, which has exposed how nervous Beijing is about the blooming microbloging industry — known as “weibo” in Chinese — and their potential in tearing at the seams of censorship and controls.

Chinese microblogs, Sina Corp‘s dominant service in particular, include plenty of gossip and harmless fare.  However, they also present raucous forums for attacking officials and telling unrest or official abuses. It is their potential to stoking popular discontent, which many  worried about Beijing.

Microblogs let users in issuing bursts of opinion — a maximum of 140 Chinese characters – cascading through chains of followers who instantly catch messages, which challenges censors who have a hard time monitoring the tens of millions of messages sent daily. Inventive users adopt unusual words in getting around censorship filters.

The number of Chinese users listed on domestic microblog sites reached 195 million by the end of June, a more than threefold rise on the number at the end of 2010, as stated in the records of China Internet Network Information Center.

A top Chinese Internet regulator this month also known  for implementing stricter policy on microblogs at the same time also encourages officials to use them in engaging with citizens, which indicates that Beijing looks to better control such services, but does not consider shutting down the service.

Sina and other Chinese microblog operators already set out technicians and software so that they could monitor content and block and remove comment believed to be deemed undesirable, mainly those concerning protests, official scandals and party leaders.