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    Weibo Next to Carry Torch in Crusade Against Celebrity Gossip

    Following WeChat’s example, China’s most popular microblog platform announces closure of celebrity gossip accounts.

    Chinese microblog platform Weibo announced Thursday evening that it had closed 19 well-known celebrity gossip accounts and published new guidelines to bring celebrity-related content in line with what it called “core socialist values.”

    In a 20-point guideline, Weibo outlined a plan to crack down on content related to celebrity gossip, saying it will close accounts or delete content obtained by “following or taking pictures of individuals without their permission for the purpose of entertainment.” The guidelines also warned China’s public personalities to steer clear of sharing information about “sex scandals, disputes, and conflicts” on their own microblogs. The 19 accounts already closed by Weibo include that of “China’s No. 1 paparazzo,” Zhou Wei, who also had his public account on messaging app WeChat closed in June.

    Celebrity scandals are frequently aired online in China, with notable cases including photos of two-time Olympic medal-winning badminton player Lin Dan cheating on his pregnant wife, and images taken by a drone of Shanghai girl band SNH48 changing clothes.

    Weibo cited its intentions to “proactively disseminate core socialist values” and “build a healthy environment for mainstream public opinion.” The announcement emphasized that though celebrities and their followers are “an important composite part of Weibo’s ecology, short-term attention-seeking hype is not necessary for the healthy development of this platform.”

    So far, the summer of 2017 has seen a host of social media account closures following a June 1 revision to China’s cybersecurity law purporting to protect users’ personal information. Thousands of live-streaming accounts with sexual content, 60 WeChat accounts purveying celebrity gossip, and a popular WeChat account that produces commentaries about films and television have already been targeted. Parts of Weibo’s stated rationale for closing the accounts match an official announcement that accompanied the revised cybersecurity law word for word.

    Contributions: Kenrick Davis; editor: Mayura Jain.

    (Header image: Weibo’s exhibition booth at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing, Apr. 29, 2017. VCG)