[caption id="attachment_5219" align="alignright" width="300"]Weibo, the microblogging service, began trading on Thursday. (Getty Images) Weibo, the microblogging service, began trading on Thursday. (Getty Images)[/caption]Last week many newspapers worldwide spoke at length about the initial public offering (IPO) of Weibo, the Chinese state-controlled and censored “twitter,” in the U.S. stock market. I know that in today’s world it is very difficult to be surprised or shocked by any news, since the amount of “shocking” news that we receive is overwhelming, but think about it: isn’t it amazing to see a communication service for citizens that is officially controlled, state-managed and censored by the Chinese Communist Party, enter with fanfare into the Temple of Capitalism - Wall Street, New York, U.S.A.? Yes, I believe it is amazing, but this is the world in which probably the notions of Communism and Capitalism do not mean anything anymore: it is just about making money. And in fact, mostly, the comments on this news focused on the good performance of the price of the stocks, which closed its first day 19 percent above the initial price, which was reportedly set at the bottom of the expected range. But, to tell the truth there were also several comments about the fact that this is a service provided to citizens – who are in theory supposed to communicate freely - and that instead it is subject to the official censorship of the Chinese Government. Any time issues disliked by the authorities are discussed (guess what, for example protests or self-immolations in Tibet or the fate of the arrested Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo) they are immediately removed from the Weibo forum.

So, the question was and still is: can a communication service that is censored by the state continue to keep and increase its “customers” in the long term? Actually, it was reported earlier this year by an official source that after some episodes of censorship, Weibo has lost nine percent of its user base. Although, I believe that the implementation of this Orwellian dream of total control of the public debate in China is destined to fail miserably, the Chinese authorities keep trying hard, and this is already resulting in a decrease of users and in mistrust in the Weibo service. But now there is a question I would like you to answer as a citizen and a potential investor in the U.S. stock market. Would you find it ethical and legitimate to invest your money (to make money) in a service that is subject to official censorship according to the desires of the Chinese Communist Party? Would you support with your money a service that goes against the right to free speech? At ICT we have started to look closely at the issue of business ethics, corporate social responsibility and how these principles can play a role in promoting the human rights and the civil liberties of Tibetans. For me, it would be extremely valuable to extend the discussion and the debate. Maybe Weibo could be an interesting starting point. Matteo
Matteo

4 Responses to “Weibo, the Chinese censors enter the U.S. … stock market”

  1. Joann Tsoutsouris says:

    No – I do not consider it ethical and legitimate to invest in such a ‘service.’

  2. silvia says:

    Well, some times to the governer only are interest in money (sorry by my english) but, the human does´nt live without religion and fate, and well the chinese country in this moment is increment its money, but without religion, pour chinos, it´s future it will be hard…

  3. Ken Brooker says:

    “So, the question was and still is: can a communication service that is censored by the state continue to keep and increase its “customers” in the long term?”

    (Not sure if this will show up as a Comment or as a Reply to a Comment but…) Seems to me that if the answer is Yes then someone is whistling against the wind and if, No then the wind is at their backs. But I guess “the question [that] was and still is” would only matter to “potential investors”?

  4. Ken Brooker says:

    “Would [I] find it ethical and legitimate to invest [my] money (to make money) in a service that is subject to official censorship according to the desires of the Chinese Communist Party?” “Would [I] support with [my] money a service that goes against the right to free speech?”

    Both questions obviously leading questioning but, ok, the desired answer to both is: No. And perhaps beyond the point here but I see the U.S. Stock Market as white-collar… Gambling, for lemmings with the luxury*** of disposable income, yet who might not even know what “leading questions” mean, much less human rights. ***85% of America lives paycheck to paycheck… Maybe any discussion or debate would better speak to the 85%? In other words, I am not a “potential investor” — All “about making money” — and have no desire to be.

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