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This article was published on April 19, 2012

    Chinese Web giant Sina’s new citizen reporting platform pulled amid rumor of government interference

    Chinese Web giant Sina’s new citizen reporting platform pulled amid rumor of government interference
    Jon Russell
    Story by

    Jon Russell

    Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.

    We’ve seen plenty of efforts aimed at creating citizen news channels — the last few days alone saw Dabble and Signal launch — but Chinese Web giant Sina‘s effort to join the grouping cluster of news-gathering services has been the most curious yet.

    Earlier today Sina, which runs popular Twitter-like Sina Weibo, launched Baoliao, a real-time news reporting platform. However, there’s a problem. As Tech in Asia points out, Baoliao is nowhere to be found.

    The Chinese government has been hot on cracking down on anonymous Internet users and the reporting of ‘harmful information’, could it be that the state stepped in to bring down the service just hours after it launched?

    Rather ominously, a number of Chinese media articles announcing its launch have been pulled from the Web, but details of the launch have remained untouched on smaller (and non-Chinese) websites.

    But what is Baoliao? Intertwined with 250 million user strong Sina Weibo, Baoliao allows Chinese Web users to provide news, tips and images from across the country, via Weibo or anonymous, as China Internet Watch explains:

    Sina Weibo users can click on the corresponding region of events, select a media and submit news tips. By default, the information will also be published through this citizen journalist’s Sina Weibo account unless she chooses not to.

    The move is an potentially significant one, given the 250 million registered users of Sina’s ‘Weibo’ microblogging service.

    Given that Sina and fellow Weibo-owner Tencent were recently punished for allowing rumor-mongering on their already oft-censored platforms, and they recently pledged to fight Internet speculation, the issues around the service could be more than just server or site problems.

    Sina and Tencent Weibo have become key platforms for the dissemination and real-time reporting of news — such as the Wenzhou train crash — and the introduction of Baoliao could have much potential to build on this, and help Sina Weibo develop too.

    One area that would concern the Chinese government would be the allowing of anonymous reporting of news, particularly given that the state is keen to make all microbloggers in the country accountable and known, via the yet-to-be-strictly-applied ‘real name’ regulation.

    Clearly a service allows news to be send in anonymously goes against this push for greater accountability online. However, like the China’s Internet ‘backout’ last week, there’s previous little information which makes it impossible to confirm things, but certainly it appears suspicious.

    We’ve reached out to Sina for clarification and update the article should we receive a reply.