Differences between Twitter and Chinese Sina Weibo

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Recently I read a blog post saying that Chinese social media users are ‘happier’ and write ‘less political’ messages on their profiles than Westerners, according to a major new study by the computer scientists at the Delft University of Technology in Holland and the Shanghai Jiaotong University who studied 46 million messages posted on Twitter and the enormously popular Sina Weibo.

I think this is interesting because I use both Twitter and Sina Weibo very often. Here are some differences I came up with from my personal experience.

1. Identity verification: On Sina Weibo, most of the users have to submit their real identity to the Sina company in order to use more functions. A lot of Weibo users who have a large number of followers, such as celebrities, websites, and organizations, have already used their real name as account names, which encourages more new users to be identified to get certain badges beside their profiles. For example, I gave out my ID number to get verified so I got a new badge to show off.

2. Function of social media: Most of the time I see Weibo as a tool for entertainment merged with commercials because there is plenty of information regarding sales, constellation, comics and daily personal posts. Besides, it has been developed more like a Facebook in that there is an app and game center for users to connect and participate in this type of social media. On Twitter, on the other hand, the content created by users is more narrowed down. People tend to retweet more about political and other news without sharing too many personal stories or feelings.

3. Censorship: Obviously, corporations in mainland China such as Sina, for survival  have to compromise to the censorship policies implemented by the Chinese government. Users create “happier” contents with the guidance and direction of Sina. Any inappropriate user content will be detected by the Sina system and deleted by the staff in charge. Sometimes, users’ accounts get blocked or the users get tracked down for posts that are considered sensitive. It’s hard to say Twitter has this similar implicit trend from my observation so far. But anyway, “less political” is sort of a condition for users to continue their rights of speech.

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About Tim H.

Just another awesome social worker. View all posts by Tim H.

3 responses to “Differences between Twitter and Chinese Sina Weibo

  • Paige Boetefuer

    It’s interesting that one may call Chinese social media users “happier” while their media consumption and social media creation is censored. Is this some sort of proof of the common phrase “ignorance is bliss”? I think many Americans would claim censorship inhibits on basic human rights and therefore diminishes happiness, but it seems that this depends on societal concepts and perspectives.

  • katy11hermann

    I actively use twitter and have moved more and more from using it as an entertainment source to one in which I follow economists, developers, and news sites. I certainly see its potential as a forum for political discussions and opinions, although as we discussed in class there is still no way to weed out incorrect or ill informed information. I’m not sure I would want to continue using a site similar to the chinese Sina Weibo if it was more about advertising, products, and celebrities (seriously I don’t want to see what Drew Brees ate for dinner retweeted in my feed AGAIN).
    The account verification process on Sina Weibo is an interesting addition, because I do believe having verified accounts adds legitimacy to twitter, but certainly could have legal ramifications and limit dissenting voices who do not want the government to know their true identity for fear of punishment.

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