In Face of Censorship, How Does China Play its Social Media Game?


China has about 75 crore people consuming the Internet in a country which doesn’t allow the use of mainstream networking websites.
China has about 75 crore people consuming the Internet in a country which doesn’t allow the use of mainstream networking websites.(Photo: The Quint)

In Face of Censorship, How Does China Play its Social Media Game?

India has over 24 crore Facebook users, while a total of 43 crore Indians regularly use the Internet, according to a report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

Despite the far reach of social media in India, the country does not have its own popular social networking site or a search engine. The realm is dominated entirely by Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp.

China, on the other hand, has about 75 crore people using the Internet in a country which doesn’t allow the use of mainstream networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. In such a scenario, China, unlike the rest of the world – including India, is not dependent on American social media websites or search engines.

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However, the question remains – which way does China turn to for social media?

Baidu: The Chinese Google

By 2009, about 36 percent of internet users in China were using Google, which had entered the country merely four years ago in 2005. Following censorship, the number had decreased to just 2 percent by 2013.

Meanwhile Baidu, a Chinese search engine, which has been running since 2000, has replaced Google.

Baidu entered China in 2000.
Baidu entered China in 2000.
(Photo Courtesy: Screengrab from Baidu.com)
A majority of internet users in China now use Baidu as their primary search engine.

WeChat, Not WhatsApp

Before the government started clamping down social media platforms, the Chinese used WhatsApp. However, it was soon replaced by WeChat after censorship laws were introduced in the country.

There are currently 49 crore WeChat users in China.

Facebook? Scratch That, Renren It Is

Facebook has been blocked in China since 2009. It cannot be accessed on any Internet or mobile network. It was only in 2005 that Chinese company Xiaonei Network launched a social media website named ‘Renren.’

Similar to Facebook, photographs, status updates and live streaming are some of the features it offers, and is especially popular among college students.

Say Hello to Weibo – Chinese Twitter

In 2009, there were violent riots in Urumqi, China, and the government believed that it was due to rumours on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook that led to the violence. Following the incident, censorship laws become even more stringent, and Weibo was presented as a new social media platform.

The website not only keeps a close watch on sensitive content, but also blocks it at its own level. Weibo also adheres to a 14-character limit.

YouTube or Youku Tudou



China uses Youku Tudou instead of YouTube.
China uses Youku Tudou instead of YouTube.
(Photo Courtesy: Screengrab from Youku.com)

China uses Youku Tudou instead of YouTube. On the video platform, audiences prefer to consume long format videos. Additionally, about 70 percent of the content on Youku is either professionally shot or has been under the banner of the website.

(This story was originally published on QuintHindi.)

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