U.S. Consulate Social Media Account in China Disappears

BEIJING (AP) — A widely read microblog written by the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai and known for its sometimes tongue-in-cheek comments about China’s social and political issues was inaccessible Friday.

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Attempts to access the microblog on China’s most popular blogging site, Sina Weibo, were met with an error message that said the account is “temporarily unavailable.” The results for searches of the consulate’s microblog name were censored with a message that said: “According to relevant laws, regulations and policies… search results were not displayed.”

American officials said they did not know why their social media account could not be reached.

“We’re still working to find out why our Weibo page is inaccessible,” said Shanghai consulate spokeswoman Wylita Bell, reached by phone. “We are speaking with our commercial service provider, doing follow ups, trying to find out why. We also still hope that we can resume normal operations as soon as possible.”

A Sina Weibo employee in a department that oversees the microblog site’s operations said there could be a technical glitch.

“We are not sure what happened exactly,” said the woman, who refused to give her name.

The Sina Weibo accounts of other branches of the U.S. government in China, such as the embassy in Beijing and consulates in other cities, were still accessible Friday.

The Shanghai consulate’s account was known for using playful language that included trendy Chinese online expressions to interact with its Chinese followers. It had more than 80,000 followers.

Sina Weibo employs a team of censors who make sure the site is free of personal attacks, pornography, as well as any “illegal information,” which covers topics the government wants to keep out of public discussions. Sina Weibo says it reserves the rights to delete posts and freeze accounts for content it deems offensive.

by Didi Tang, Associated Press, with contributions from Gillian Wong