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This article was published on June 10, 2012

Last week in Asia: China censors Tiananmen and tightens online controls, GREE buys Korean firm and more

Last week in Asia: China censors Tiananmen and tightens online controls, GREE buys Korean firm and more
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.

Welcome to the latest Last Week in Asia round-up, our selection of the key stories and developments from across Asia’s growing technology and Internet spaces.


Top story: China’s Sina Weibo disables emoticons, quietens microbloggers on Tiananmen Square anniversary

The Tiananmen Square massacre is one of the most controversial events in the history of China, and it was no surprise to see that the 21st anniversary of the tragedy passed with Chinese censors working frantically to keep ‘sensitive’ messages quiet.

Microblogging platform Sina began censoring emoticons on Sunday, before a whole batch of words — both expected and unexpected — fell prey to the Twitter-equivalent’s black-list, preventing users looking them up via its search engine.

The terms that were blocked included the Chinese words for “candle”, “six four” (June 4), “23″ (the 23 year anniversary) and — almost ridiculously — “today”, “yesterday” and “Shanghai composite”.

The latter is arguably one of the most bizarre ever, and was added to the list after China’s stock exchange fell by 64.89 points on the anniversary of the event that took place in June 4, 1989 (6.4.89).

This wasn’t the only significant freedom of speech update from China last week. Reuters reported that the government is pursing draft legislation that proposes to expand its real-name rule regulation to cover other Internet services beyond microblogging:

The document states that Internet information service providers, including microblogs, forums and blogs, that allow users to post information on the Internet should ensure users are registered with their real identities.

Forum and blog users in China are not now required to register with their real names.

Writing late last month, following the full-on introduction of a new punishment system for microblogs, we suspected that the Chinese government’s campaign to crack down on the Internet might gather more pace – however, we didn’t anticipated that a new move would come quite so soon.

The proposal is still in draft and it is also worth recalling that we are yet to see the full impact of the regulation on microblogs, with Sina Weibo recently admitting it has been slow to implement it.

The repercussions of the site’s tardiness are as yet unclear, although Sina’s move to introduce the new ‘user contract’ system may have made partly with the intention of appeasing authorities.

Also of note:


Top story: The War for India’s Internet [Foreign Policy]

Internet censorship has become a key topic of tech news reporting in India lately, particularly over the last month, during which a range of sites were blocked by ISPs, triggering a response from global hacking group Anonymous.

Added to that, a court case remains against Facebook and Google’s for the duo’s alleged poor handling of ‘sensitive’ content on Indian Web space. The case has progressed since a complaint from veteran journalist Vinay Rao and, last week, executives were summoned to court for the next hearing.

Rebecca MacKinnon, whose work and words on China featured on our most recent weekly review from Asia, summarises exactly how, why and what the case means for free speech in India.

If Google and Facebook lose at their impending trial — now scheduled for July — they will most certainly appeal, which activists hope could provide just such an opportunity to prevent the sort of “behavior modification” process that Abraham warns against.

Now India’s burgeoning Internet freedom movement needs its own reverse “behavior modification” strategy — imposing consistent and regular doses of political and legal ice water upon India’s bureaucrats, politicians, and companies whenever they do things that threaten to corrode the rights of India’s Internet users. Saturday’s [Anonymous] protest is just the beginning.

Despite MacKinnon’s words, the first Anonymous protest in India didn’t attract the large numbers that have graced other campaigns worldwide, including protests on Wall Street.

Asia One estimates that a total of just over 250 protesters came out across four cities — New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata — but it remains to be seen if the initiative will gain increased backing, especially if the government continues blocking content online.

Also of note:

Japan/South Korea

Top story: Japan’s GREE acquires Korean social gaming company Paprika Lab

Japan social games giant GREE followed its May purchase of Funzio for $210 million with a deal to buy Korea-based Paprika Lab for an undisclosed sum.

The deal will see GREE add Paprika Lab’s social games portfolio, including Facebook game HeroCity, which boasts more than 150 million monthy active users, into its existing collection for mobile-based gamers.

The acquisition comes as the Japanese gaming giant puts the final touches to its upcoming global gaming platform, which is likely to be unveiled some time within the next couple of months. The new platform will finally integrate OpenFeint — the US games platform that GREE bough in 2010 — wholly into its service.

Also of note:

Southeast Asia

Top story: Deutsche Telekom subsidiary backs Asian online property group PropertyGuru

PropertyGuru, one of Asia’s most visible property websites, scooped major investment when it closed funding from Berlin-based ImmobilienScout24, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom.

The company’s investment is a reported SG$60 million (circa US$47 million) and the deal will also see ImmobilienScout24 work with the site to share ideas, best practices and pool efforts to build new products.

PropertyGuru says the revenue will be used to expand and develop more services to boost the site which, it claims, receives 8.2 million unique visitors per month.

Also of note:

Echelon 2012

We’ll be taking the pulse of Asia’s startup scene at Echelon 2012 next week

The Next Web will be at Echeleon 2012 in Singapore June 11-12 checking out Southeast Asia’s top startups and young businesses.

Here’s a quick scoot of some of the (many) companies at the event, taken from our preview post:

The event features more than fifty speakers from across Asia, and Silicon Valley, and includes startups like real-life rewards platform KikIndian video service Spuul, big boys like Google, Amazon Web Services, RIM and Singtel, and investors from Golden Gate Ventures, Neoteny Labs and a number of other VC firms.

Stay tuned for coverage of discussions points, news and — of course — startups from the show.

That’s all for this week until next Sunday – you can keep up with all of our Last Week in Asia round-ups here or follow @TheNextWebAsia on Twitter for news as it happens.

Images – 1: shutterstock/testing, 2: shutterstock/irin-k, 3: flickr/zigazou, 4: agentmlovestacos, 5: TNW, 6: e27