China’s national library to archive 200 billion Weibo posts in project to preserve country’s digital heritage – SCMP

What happened: The National Library of China will archive more than 200 billion posts from microblogging platform Weibo, as well as 210 million articles from news site Sina, which is owned by the same company. Both will be preserved as a part of the history of China’s internet culture, and will be analyzed and potentially used in academia as well as policy-making. The method of selecting which posts to preserve was not provided. The National Library is reportedly inviting other companies to share their data for similar purposes.

Why it’s important: Other national organizations and authorities have also sought to preserve troves of internet data for posterity, setting a precedent for China’s move. As of December, Weibo alone had 462 million monthly active users. The nine-year-old platform’s trove of microblogs could be telling—despite online censorship, studies have shown that vocal Weibo netizens have wielded influence on important issues like air pollution. As a recent and apparently voluntary takedown of Sina’s apps for “vulgar” content shows, however, the problem of who is allowed to speak—and on what topics—is never far from any examination of China’s online culture.

Correction: This article has been changed to reflect that China’s National Library announced it would archive 200 billion, not 200 million, total posts on Weibo.

Bailey Hu is based in China’s hardware capital, Shenzhen. Her interests include local maker culture, grassroots innovation and how tech shapes society, as well as vice versa.

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