China's 274M microbloggers is highest in world

Number of microbloggers grew over four times since 2010, as the platform becomes an increasingly important way for expression, especially on public issues.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

China, which is home to 538 million Internet users, has some 274 million microbloggers as of June this year, a massive jump from 63 million back in 2010.

Citing a report published by the Social Sciences Academic Press, Xinhua said on Monday the number is the highest in the world. It said microblogging has become an important channel for Chinese citizens to express themselves, especially on public issues.

The report's authors said the government has recognized the influence of microblog networks and have made more efforts to use them, since it is also an easy, low-cost communication channel. As of last October, there were 18,132 accounts on Sina Weibo's microblogging platform registered by government officials, it noted.

Between July and December last year, the authorities responded to about 71.9 percent of the issues widely discussed by microbloggers, and 50.4 percent were within 24 hours, according to the report.

It also said statistics from China Internet Network Information Center (CINIC) revealed that the number of Internet users in China rose 10.9 percent year on year to 538 million by June this year. That means four out of 10 Chinese access the Internet.

The number is expected to hit more than 800 million users by 2015.

Apart from microblogging, instant messaging (IM) also gained popularity with about 415 million users, overtaking online search, music and news as the most popular Web application, the report said.

However, legislation for these new Internet media has lagged, and a national strategy to manage the development of Internet is needed. There remains no specialized law for the Web, while many related articles in existing laws need revision, the report noted.

In China, where foreign social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are banned, government regulation of local Web services including microblogs, is not new.

In December last year, the government announced a real-name user registration rule. Later in April, two of the largest microblog sites, Weibo and Tencent's t.qq.com, were banned for three days after users posted comments that fanned complaints over censorship. It was unclear, though, whether the ban was ordered by government regulators or initiated by the companies.

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