When two high-speed trains collided on a bridge in southwestern China, the first report from the scene came from a victim, one minute later. Her Twitter-style post ended with a dramatic cry for help.
Eventually, state media revealed that about 35 people were killed in the crash and more than 210 injured. Microblogs were effective in gathering help from people who donated blood and money. Citizens also flooded microblogs with messages criticizing officials for letting the accident happen and badly responding to the disaster.
Home-grown social media outlets are thriving in China, and microblogs have vexed government officials with rapid and widespread dissemination of news.
The number of people using microblogs -- known as weibo in China -- has grown 300 percent from a year ago to more than 250 million. One reason for the popularity, and the unusually free expression, is that weibo users have been able to post anonymously. However, that started changing this month in China’s major cities. Microbloggers must register on the Weibo platform using their real identities or face unspecified legal consequences.
Host David Reed spoke with people familiar with the microblogging phenomenon, and discussed the impact of the state’s crackdown.
Michael Anti is an independent blogger and reports on international affairs for Chinese and English media outlets. He won a prestigious media award last year and received international attention recently when Facebook blocked his account because he uses his pen name and not his state-registered name.
Lucy Hornby is a correspondent for Reuters who has reported from Beijing and Shanghai since 2004.