Is closing social media accounts the right approach to online cleanup?

Screenshot of closed WeChat accounts

While Beijing is undergoing an urban transformation in real life, by closing down many vendor shops to make the city cleaner and well-organized, it is also doing similar reconstruction in the virtual world, by shutting down many influential social media accounts which are deemed as vulgar and misleading.

On Wednesday, 60 popular social media accounts on at least seven platforms, ranging from Sina Weibo and Youku to Baidu, were closed after the Beijing Cyberspace Administration talked to the management of these websites, requiring them to fulfill their duties, create healthy public opinion environment and contain the hyping of pop stars' personal affairs.

The move triggered heated discussions among the Netizens, who either gave approval or questioned it.

Some users said, “Well done! It should have been done earlier.” “The rubbish news takes the headlines every day, and everyone is gossiping, creating a seedy environment.” “Our time needs to be guided by a meaningful culture with morality and belief, otherwise we will be looked down upon even if our economy is advancing.”

While others said, “People should be given the right to speak openly, even if you may not agree with them.” “These accounts at least supervised the showbiz, which is less disciplined.”

Should vulgarity and rumor be tolerated?

On the list of accounts closed is Zhuo Wei, dubbed as China's No.1 paparazzi. Having 7 million followers before his Sina Weibo account was shut down, Zhuo gained fame for revealing scandals in the Chinese showbiz, though many of the stories were rumors or fabrications.

Famous actors/actresses would usually be willing to pay a large sum of money to prevent the spread of negative publicity.

Mi Meng, a famous Internet writer who has more than 10 million fans, is attracting people with her unscrupulous headlines, and disputable and distorted values.

“She is cheeky,” some said. But she is making a handsome money.

Advertisement fee for each of her articles ranged from 150,000 to 680,000 yuan. Based on the calculation, Mi Meng has earned more than 50 million yuan in advertising revenue since she opened the WeChat account last year.

Just like someone ever commented: If young people who have been struggling to build up their futures look around and find people are making easy money just by not behaving, what would they think?

Some of Mi Meng’s articles are not available to readers during the current Internet cleanup.

Although many people despise Zhuo Wei and Mi Meng, some of them think they “have the right” to speak out. Do they?

Don’t talk to me: “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself”, explain it to terrorists. Freedom to someone is restraint to others. Besides the freedom to talk, we also need the freedom to live at ease.

When we read the news that no one came to help a woman who was knocked over by a car, and then rolled over by another, we are filled with anger: it’s a society without any morals! When we see shared bikes being thrown here and there at will, with saddles taken away or barcodes destroyed, we would feel uncomfortable: do these people ever think of others? Of course they don’t! They grew up in a society where people are fond of chasing the ridiculous lives of movie stars, who could easily amass wealth that an ordinary person may not be able to earn in his entire life; where people could win fame and admiration by talking without any bottom line, as long as they could catch the eyes; where people grab attention just because they are rich, even if they don’t behave well. How could you expect people growing up in such an environment would ever care for others?

A mother said her 10-year old daughter would be liked by her peers if she talked about teenage stars, while other topics would be shrugged off.

If we tolerate unlimited freedom, the society would, one day, become intolerable to us.

Need for management

Some people have expressed concerns that the one-size-fits-all approach is not ideal.

“Managing (the accounts) according to regulations would be far better than just closing them down,” said a government official who is not related to the industry.

Dushe Movie, which focused on sharing information and review on trending and classic movies, was also among the list of accounts that were shut down.

With around 2 million followers, the account is valued at 300 million yuan ($44 million) after finishing its first major round of financing, according to a 2016 report on 36Kr.com, an online technology media platform.

It is necessary to regulate the Internet environment, but it should be done by telling people the black and the white, said an industry participant.

For example, set up a movie-grading system, or outline the regulations on what should not be published on social media, and punish organizations or individuals who break the rules with large sum of fines, she said.

But, it takes time to make laws and regulations, which should go through a relatively long approval process.


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