News / Asia

In Shanghai, US Consulate's Microblog Disappears

Logo of Sina Corp's Chinese microblogging site, "Weibo," on a screen, Beijing, September 2011.
Logo of Sina Corp's Chinese microblogging site, "Weibo," on a screen, Beijing, September 2011.
A social media account run by the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai has mysteriously disappeared from the Internet in China, prompting many to wonder if it is the work of government censors.

The Shanghai consulate's account on Sina Weibo, a popular Twitter-like microblog service owned by SINA Corporation, was known for its sometimes witty commentary, often on Chinese political and social issues.

But as of Friday, the consulate's account was still inaccessible, replaced by an error message that reads "temporarily unavailable" -- a message similar to those seen when accounts are deleted by government censors.

Consulate officials say they do not know why the account has been removed and that they are working to find out how the service can be restored.

But Jeremy Goldkorn, the editor of -- a website about Chinese media and Internet -- calls the incident "almost certainly" more than just a technical glitch.

"This is very common. Sina, sometimes at the request of governments, and sometimes on their own initiative to avoid getting in trouble with the government, shuts down accounts and deletes tweets [posts] -- they do all kinds of censorship," he said. "So almost certainly this is what happened."

It would not be the first dispute between American diplomats and the government of China, which employs a massive team of web censors to remove material deemed objectionable.

Last month, a senior Chinese environmental official slammed the U.S. Embassy in Beijing's Twitter account for regularly posting air quality readings that are much worse than the government's official figures.

According to Goldkorn, Beijing is likely even more displeased with posts that appear in the Chinese language on locally hosted services, such as Weibo. But he says he does not know of any instances of government censors completely shutting down a U.S. government-controlled account.

"They have deleted tweets from the U.S. government's Weibo accounts in the past, so in that sense it's not new," he said. "But I think this may be the first time that they have completely removed or disabled an account, on Weibo at least."

Popular Western social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China, forcing the country's estimated 500 million Internet users to more easily controlled versions, such as Sina Weibo.

Beijing defends its online censorship, dubbed the Great Firewall of China, by saying it is aimed at maintaining social stability, preventing the spread of false rumors, and blocking inappropriate material.

Analysts say they expect censors to work even harder to filter out controversial content in the coming months in an attempt to enforce calm as a once-in-a-decade leadership transition in the Communist Party draws closer.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
July 20, 2012 2:28 PM
Sometimes my friends and I were "deleted" from Facebook too. Maybe it's just a coincide, who knows! Btw, Chinese Gov't won't let ppl to use Facebook or twitter because ppl can talk whatever they want. If Chinese see this and get the idea, it will be horrific for Chinese Gov't! China and USA are different, so don't use American point of view to judge China.

by: Anonymous
July 17, 2012 10:23 PM
Thanks for China.Beat USA.

by: matt
July 16, 2012 2:23 AM
Thank goodness the Chinese government interferes with the local internet.
Can you imagine how awesome China would be with an open internet?
So thanks again to some dim witted party bosses for keeping its citizens in the dark.
In Response

by: Gordon
July 23, 2012 9:29 AM
you are so funny!

by: Anonymous
July 16, 2012 1:35 AM
china goverment always do this when they think some informations

need not let chinese people know.
In Response

by: CK from: VN
July 17, 2012 3:05 AM
US do the same when wikilick unveilled some info. that were considered not favor for the US. So don't blame other countries when they response with the same action.

by: Anonymous
July 14, 2012 3:39 AM
Why all my comments can not be passed the censoring of this Web site. I have writen hundreds of commments, but none of them can be posted in the site. A big satire!

by: georgefromChina from: China
July 13, 2012 10:03 PM
Sorry for this.but sometimes the government doesen't stand for its ppl.most of our Chinese are open-minded and hope to get connected with the rest of the world.
In Response

by: JohnnyWang from: Taiwan
July 15, 2012 10:41 PM
So, do you think all Chinese are idiots?
what do you mean to connect with the rest of world?
that's an insult of american!

by: joe from: usa
July 13, 2012 1:32 PM
Chinese are clueless thanks to their govt.
In Response

by: fu from: china
July 14, 2012 8:11 AM
as same as American.....thanks to your govt.
In Response

by: georgefromChina from: China
July 13, 2012 10:07 PM
eh,I don't want to argue about this,i just want to say,the definition of clueless is various.

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