First there was what seemed to be a surprising amount of freedom on the Chinese microblogging sites that leapt up in the absence of Twitter and Fanfou. Then, this week ((Can’t see this story? Break through the GFW with a VPN from Freedur)), the four biggest microblogging services suddenly added “beta” tags to their logos, prompting Chinese users to collectively groan and brace for impact.
That impact has come, at least on Sina’s Weibo service. Links to any website outside China are now blocked. Reports of this new policy spread this afternoon via Twitter, and having tested it ourselves, we can confirm that it is true. As you can see from our Sina Weibo, we attempted to post five links. The first four were to innocuous and unblocked websites outside China, including a New York Times article and the Geico Insurance Company website. All four were converted into shortened links automatically, and when clicked, they returned only an error message. However, when we tested a fifth time using a domestic link (youku.com), the shortened URL worked fine and we were directed to the Youku.
So anything — anything — that isn’t on a Chinese website can no longer be linked via Sina Weibo. I’m not even going to comment on this one. Will it push more Chinese internet users outside the GFW in search of a microblogging experience that doesn’t pretend half of the internet doesn’t exist? Who knows.
Of course, as it means we can no longer post links to our blog (which is hosted outside China), we will no longer be using the service.