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Weibo: Millions Stop Using ‘Chinese Twitter’

Users of China’s Twitter-like microblogging site Weibo has fallen for the first time amid challenges from new instant-messaging applications and stricter government controls.Weibo Chinese Twitter

According to a report published by China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC), the number of users of Weibo, known as the Chinese version of Twitter, dropped 9% from a year earlier to 281 million at the end of 2013.

This marked the first decline in usage of the platform in figures dating back to 2010.

In its annual report, CNNIC reported an overall fall in users of social media as a percentage of the entire population of internet users in 2013, but instant-messaging services such as WeChat experienced rapid growth.

Doug Young, author and former financial journalist in China. said: “WeChat has become the trendy hot thing of the day and is replacing Weibo.

“The crackdown has impacted a certain group of users on Weibo.”

WeChat allows users to share information with circles of friends or open a public account that others can subscribe to, similar to the Twitter feature of having followers but without any word limit.

Observers believe the overall decline in use of traditional social media in China is also partly due to government restrictions on microblogs.

A new legal interpretation allows the government to jail microbloggers who post false information that has been reposted 500 times or viewed 5,000 times.

Willy Lam, a political analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said: “I think there are several reasons, with the crackdown being one.

“People don’t want to get into trouble, and they have found other means of communications.”

In November, a top propaganda official declared a victory when asked to comment on the state of China’s microblog-sphere.

Ren Xianliang, vice minister of the State Internet Information Office, said: “If we should describe the online environment in the past as good mingling with the bad, the sky of the cyberspace has cleared up now because we have cracked down on online rumours.”

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