Can China contain the microblog?

Social networking sites are under increasing pressure in China. Someone seems to have realized just how difficult they are to monitor when it comes to breaking news.

Twitter and Facebook have been inaccessible for a while; next to go dark was Fanfou, a Chinese service offering microblogging services like Twitter’s, which became unavailable in China shortly after this month’s unrest in Xinjiang, according to international news reports. The Associated Press said that Digu and Zuosa, also microblogging platforms, closed on Tuesday, citing maintenance needs.

Online security was tight across the board today, AP reported. The technology news sites of two popular Internet portals, Sina and Netease, were also down for several hours after posting stories on a corruption probe into a company formerly overseen by President Hu Jintao’s son. The Berkeley, California-based China Digital Times has posted a censorship notice the Central Propaganda Department apparently sent to all online news providers regarding the subject.

With government censors as keen as ever, it might seem inevitable that the upstart microblogging community–the format went mainstream in China in June, according to the media analysis blog Danwei–would run into trouble. On the other hand, Internet bulletin boards, blogs, and other, similarly fluid forums, while subject to deletion and monitoring, still thrive on the Chinese Web as a rich source of opinion and information exchange. It will be interesting to see whether microblogs will be able to negotiate their own space in the well-policed online world in China.