Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, is being serially banned from China’s most popular micro-blogging network, Sina Weibo.
The social media platform is a kind of Chinese Twitter, boasting more than 225 million users. From Bill Gates to International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, the service is rapidly becoming the go-to destination for anyone who wants to communicate directly with a big Chinese audience.
A complex series of laws and regulations allow the Chinese government to censor content online, though privately owned companies like Sina Weibo also frequently self-censor content in order to avoid Bejing’s wrath.
According to Global Voices Online, the ban came about because of either Deutshe Welle's “exposure of Sina's censorship mechanism or a news item about a protest in Guangzhou.”
In fact just a day earlier the German broadcaster had a very public spat with Sina Weibo over what’s know as “reincarnation.” That term is a euphemism for relaunching an account after it has been banned.
Apparently Deutsche Welle had been forced to reincarnate several times -- something the broadcaster, which posts news items in Chinese, has been getting quite tired of.
On Nov. 13, Deutsche Welle posted the following message to its newest account:
In English: Not only is it impossible for us to obtain a “V” (an symbol for a verified account on Sina) thanks to Sina’s tyranny we’re forced to “reincarnate” over and over again. Before this we’ve always promised we wouldn’t be blocked because we have yet to break any Chinese laws, nor have we broken any of Sina’s own taboos. But facts have proven that it’s impossible to avoid Sina’s g-spots [a term that refers to sensitive topics on Sina] -- or rather that Sina’s entire body is covered with g-spots.”
The next day, on Nov. 14, Sina contacted Deutsche-Welle with a pop-up notification. “If you’re dishonest again, your account will be deleted,” the note read in Chinese.
As if this morning, Deutsche-Welle’s newest Sina Weibo account has once again disappeared.
The spat has come just weeks after the Chinese government hinted that it would take tighter control over the country’s growing social media networks.
So Western media take heed: Deutsche Welle may be the first victim of a new spat of censorship on the social media platform. Be careful what you post.