Sina Weibo to Suspend Trending Topics for A Week

Sina Corp.’s Sina Weibo microblogging (Source: Bloomberg)

Sina Weibo, China’s largest microblogging service, posted that it would take some features offline for a week, including its rankings of top searches and hot topics, in compliance with orders from the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), China’s internet watchdog.

Weibo has stopped updating its trending topics since 3 p.m. Wednesday, it will resume at 3 p.m. on June 17. According to CAC orders, Weibo has to penalize staff responsible for facilitating rumor spreading and pay administrative fines according to law. CAC emphasized that social media platforms must not allow illegal information, nor can it interfere with the normal information flow and online communication.

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The penalties came from Weibo’s manipulations of posts regarding the affair scandal of Jiang Fan, the former president of Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms Taobao and Tmall. The scandal emerged roughly two months ago when Jiang’s wife publicly accused and threatened internet influencer Zhang Dayi on Weibo. While rumors of the alleged affair soon became a hot topic and were heatedly discussed by netizens, Weibo took down all relevant posts and closed the comment section on Jiang’s wife’s Weibo account. Its interference triggered netizen’s dissatisfaction and suspicions that Alibaba, the second largest shareholder of Weibo, is manipulating public opinion by deleting negative news about the company. Still, Alibaba demoted Jiang from partner to group vice president after an internal investigation.

Partially affected by the penalties, Weibo’s stock price continued to decline, going down 4.09%. The latest price per share was $33.10.

According to the 2020 Q1 performance report released in late May, Weibo’s net income was $323.4 million, down 19% year-on-year, due to the adverse impact of the pandemic on the overall advertising demand. As of the end of March this year, Weibo’s monthly active users reached 550 million and daily active users reached 241 million.