Sina Weibo's social impact: help to reconnect families in Japan's Earthquake

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I read an article in local news today.  It said, as soon as the 9 magnitude earthquake shook Japan Friday, posts on Sina Weibo (or the Chinese Twitter) shoot up in China.  4.5 million messages related to the earthquake were posted on Sina Weibo, as of 6pm of Mar 11 or four hours after Japan’s earthquake.

Out of which, 300,000 were sent from micro-bloggers in Japan, possibly, from Chinese students or workers living in Japan. Moreover, 12,000 Sina Weibo users have set up a group called “Japan’s earthquake helps and contacts in Chinese” to facilitate people seeking missing family members and other information related to the relief efforts.  (Here is an article in the local media: http://tech.sina.com.cn/i/2011-03-14/21465283908.shtml)

Social impacts of microblog has well been documented.  Twitter has played some important roles for people seeking their family members or looking for helps, in the times of disasters.  Unsurprisingly, Sina Weibo is playing a similar role in Japan’s earthquake, given the proximity of the two countries.

With its popularity in China, Sina Weibo is used to fight social problems, too.  I read another news earlier.  It is about people using Sina Weibo for anti-human-trafficking.  There are a lot of children in China, who are abducted from their families and forced to be beggars on the streets.  An university professor (Professor Yu Jianrong of Institute of Rural Development, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) posted a message on Sina Weibo just before Chinese New Year (Jan 25), asking people to take photos of children beggars on the streets and post the photos on Sina Weibo, so that, their families can locate them.   Many people responded and it became a social movement.  In three weeks, more than 220,000 people joined the campaign, six missing children have been found, and one family has been reunited.

(Here is an article about it from China Daily U.S.:http://newamericamedia.org/2011/02/twitter-in-china-save-abducted-children-4.php)

Even the Chinese government responded.  The rescue of abducted children has become a priority in this year’s national congress.  Government officials have pledged they would tender proposals on the issue.

I am glad that social network can play a role in solving China’s social problems.  However, I am afraid once people’s attention switches and their interests decrease, the movement will discontinue and the problem of abducted children will deteriorate again.

Author of Red Wired: China's Internet Revolution, the first book to completely survey the nature of China's internet. (http://redwiredrevolution.com/) She previously was the lead China technology reporter for South China Morning Post, one of Asia’s largest English-language daily newspapers. Her work allowed her to witness the rise of China’s Internet sector first hand and to talk to many of the entrepreneurs and industry experts. Currently she is an independent consultant and writer. She regularly writes on issues concerning China internet and technologies in Asia Times and Hong Kong Economic Journal. She graduated at the University of Hong Kong before earning a MBA at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.