NYTimes starts Chinese site; microblogs go offline
BEIJING (AP) — The New York Times started a Chinese-language website Thursday, generating so much interest in China that thousands of followers flocked to two of its microblogs accounts. Both were apparently taken offline for several hours, but it was not clear if government interference was the reason.
The Times' accounts on microblog sites hosted by two popular Chinese web portals were offline Thursday morning, said Craig Smith, the paper's China managing director. "We are seeking to clarify the situation with those accounts," said Smith, adding that the Chinese site cn.nytimes.com has not been affected and continued to receive "strong traffic."
The paper's Chinese microblog accounts were activated Wednesday, attracting around 10,000 followers on Sina Weibo within a day and several thousand users on other sites. But on Thursday morning, the accounts hosted by Sina and Sohu.com appeared to have been taken down. The account on Tencent, another popular portal, remained active but functions such as commenting and forwarding posts were apparently disabled.
By late afternoon, the Times' Sina microblog site was accessible again.
The Times had no indication its microblogs went offline because of the company or its content, or if a technical problem occurred, Smith later said.
Sina public relations staffer Mao Taotao said the site could be accessed and the company had no reports of problems. A male customer service staffer at Sohu surnamed Wang would not comment on whether the Times' account was offline and would say only that he had passed on the query to the relevant departments.
The Chinese blogosphere lit up with speculation that the Times' microblog sites had been censored.
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