Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, blocked millions of its overseas users from posting pictures or video yesterday, the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing in 1989.
The ban over the weekend was simply announced as a “systems update,” but people noticed that local users were also not able to change their profile information, nor post photos or videos in comments.
During student-led, pro-democracy protests in the square in 1989, the Chinese military, armed with rifles and tanks, killed at least several hundred demonstrators.
On Saturday morning, Weibo posted a notice to its 340 million users announcing the systems “upgrade,” saying that some of its functions would not be available until Monday.
Comments on that post were closed, and when we attempted to post a comment saying: “I want to comment,” a notice popped up saying that the comment was in violation of Weibo’s community standards.
Users overseas confirmed that they couldn’t post any media because of the restrictions:
“I can’t post any photos or livestream while I’m outside the country apparently Weibo’s overseas systems had an upgrade, and I can only upload photos after June 5. Sorry, I can only send out Weibo Stories.”
“Dammit, it took me so much time to earn six coins on Bilibili (a video-streaming site) and I wanted to change my name, but apparently the system’s being upgraded today.”
Some users decided to stop publishing posts until the restrictions were lifted.
“Because of a systems upgrade by Weibo, I’m sorry that I can’t upload videos and photos until June 5, and I can’t update you about my life because I’m overseas. Wait for me!” said Japanese rock star, Gackt.
The weekend would have seen a flood of commemorative posts about Tiananmen coming in. Some users pointed out the coincidence.
“Just look at the calendar today and you’ll realise why you can’t post stuff from overseas.”
“Wow, this happens every year! Such a coincidence. Could it be control?”
“It’s because of a very special day.”
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