Chinese microblogging service Weibo deletes over 41,000 posts for ‘creating trouble’ during Beijing Winter Olympics, asks users to keep calm when commenting on the games

  • Weibo also banned 850 accounts from posting on its platform, as it further tightened oversight of user-generated content
  • Its action followed the online abuse heaped on Zhu Yi, the US-born figure skater who fell during her Winter Olympics debut for Team China on Sunday

Chinese microblogging service Weibo has removed more than 41,000 posts related to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, while banning 850 accounts, as the popular social media platform encouraged internet users to stay calm as they watched the games.

Some internet users are “creating trouble” at a time when the whole country is “immersed in the strong atmosphere of the Winter Olympics”, Weibo said in a post published on Tuesday. “[These users] attacked athletes with irony and insulting language and spread false information … we encourage internet users to watch the competition in a calm mood.”

Weibo’s action followed the online abuse heaped on Zhu Yi, the 19-year-old US-born figure skater who fell during her Winter Olympics debut for Team China on Sunday. She finished last in the Beijing 2022 women’s short programme team event.

“Please don’t attack athletes for an accidental mistake,” Weibo said in its latest post on Wednesday. “Emotional words only create more pressure for athletes.”

The hashtag “Zhu Yi has fallen” quickly became a top trending topic on Weibo on Sunday, gaining 200 million views in just a few hours, before it was apparently censored later. “Shame on Zhu Yi,” one netizen wrote on Weibo after her failed routine. Zhu’s selection for the Games had already been a controversial topic after she was picked at the expense of a China-born athlete.

Hu Xijin, the retired former editor-in-chief of state-run media outlet Global Times, defended Zhu in a Weibo post on Monday. “When she makes a mistake, social media will openly kick her when she’s down or bully her online,” Hu wrote. “That’s unacceptable no matter what.”

The situation has put Weibo on the spot to quickly remove incendiary posts and comments from its vast user-generated content. Many of China’s more than 1 billion internet users are currently on the 12-year-old social media platform to share their thoughts about the Beijing Winter Olympics, which officially opened on February 4 and will close on February 20.

Beijing has shown a firm stance in its drive to create a “clean and healthy” domestic cyberspace, free from information it deems harmful to society. Guidelines issued by the Cyberspace Administration of China last September emphasised that online platforms are responsible for managing content generated by their legions of users.

Outside women’s figure skating, Team China’s short-track speed skaters also sparked online debate during their 1,000 metres final on Monday. China’s Ren Ziwei won gold, while teammates Li Wenlong took silver and Liu Shaoang got bronze.

Hungary’s Sandor Liu Shaolin was first to cross the finish line in that race, but was disqualified for making contact with another athlete earlier in the race and an illegal lane change when he dove over the finish line. Liu, who has a Chinese father and a Hungarian mother, gained some local popularity because of his fluent Mandarin.

“I almost won the Olympic championship today,” Liu wrote in his Weibo post on Monday. This triggered fresh criticism on the microblogging platform, where some users stressed that Liu missed out on getting a medal because he broke the rules.

Among the accounts recently banned by Weibo, one profile summary that remains visible to the platform’s users read: “What’s wrong with criticising a guy who was penalised twice and got a yellow card?”

Author: Cheryl Heng, SCMP

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