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China mulls further social-network controls

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Communist Party officials in Beijing have flagged up concerns about the growth of micro-blogging websites in China.

According to a Reuters report, China may be pushing for more robust controls of such sites. The article cites a commentary piece written for the People's Daily by individuals who pen the Communist Party's quarterly Qiushi journal.

Twitter, Facebook and other networking portals are already heavily filtered in China.

But Beijing also has sites much closer to home that it may eventually single out for tougher measures, even though it admits that it is lagging behind on regulation.

Sina Corp-owned Weibo, for example, hit a 195 million userbase in late June, signalling a huge growth in micro-blogging in China over the past year.

Brit rock bores Radiohead created a page on Weibo in July, which almost immediately scooped up 50,000 followers from the People's Republic at launch.

The commentary didn't single out Weibo, however. But Beijing is clearly concerned about its usage.

"Internet opinion is spontaneous, but increasingly shows signs of becoming organised," said the commentary.

"Among the many controversies stirred up on the internet, many are organised, with goals and meticulous planning and direction, and some clearly have commercial interests or political intentions in the background," it continued.

"Unless administration is vigorous, criminal forces, hostile forces, terrorist organisations and others could manipulate public sentiment by manufacturing bogus opinion on the internet, damaging social stability and national security."

The ruling party scribes called for a more cautious approach to adopting internet technologies in the future, by putting administration and regulation in place before their use becomes widespread in China in order to prevent a backlash against clamp-downs.

Weibo, like Twitter in other parts of the world, is in fact used by government officials as a communication tool in China. So the idea of altogether canning it is seemingly out of the question.

Here in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron recently mulled over how to stop social media being "used for ill", following the recent riots in England.

His rhetoric was quickly shot down, and the Coalition later abandoned such a plan. ®

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