Closure of some government bodies’ new media accounts becomes a hot topic

The recent closure of several government bodies' new media accounts has ignited a lively social discussion. Analysts noted that this move highlights a reflection on pointless formalities on digital platforms, which is also an effort to alleviate the workload of grassroots workers, as well as providing more efficient services for the people by integrating resources.

According to media reports, a large number of grassroots government bodies in cities such as Kunming, Changsha, Xi'an, Qingdao, Zhangjiagang and Nanjing recently announced that their official WeChat and Weibo accounts would stop updating and they would start the cancelation process, and relevant information will be released on their respective local government websites.

In those announcements, the reasons for closing the new media accounts include avoiding waste of resources caused by duplicate operations, promoting centralized management and unified release channels, thereby promoting the healthy and orderly development of new media under local governments.

The closure of the public-service accounts came after some shortcomings were exposed by many new media platforms under grassroots governments. According to Capital News, certain information is outdated and inflexible, leading to low readership and minimal user engagement. Additionally, some apps are redundant, providing services that duplicate existing government software, leading to poor operational efficiency.

The recent wave of concentrated closures has ignited a lively debate among netizens regarding the future development of new media platforms for local governments. Some argue that it is crucial to utilize social platforms but the corresponding departments should prioritize addressing the needs of the people. Additionally, there are suggestions from netizens to promote a single platform that can efficiently handle multiple tasks in order to streamline processes and minimize complications.

Zhang Yiwu, a professor of cultural studies at Peking University, told the Global Times on Thursday that one contributing factor to the closure of numerous accounts is that certain departments have discovered that the reach and impact of their new media platforms have not met expectations despite prolonged operation.

"Some departments are not aware of the distinct characteristics of different new media platforms, including appropriate style and language, which makes it challenging for them to understand and create content that aligns with these differences," he said.

An official in East China's Jiangxi Province, who requested anonymity, told the Global Times on Thursday that operating a WeChat or Weibo account requires professional individuals, but due to time constraints and the lack of personnel with new media capabilities, many accounts perform poorly. Moreover, some departments do not update information on their platforms in a timely manner, sometimes only releasing new post every few days or even once a week, leading to many government accounts being discontinued or shut down, according to the official.

The closures of multiple public-service accounts with limited reach highlight the local governments' reflection on formalities, showing that they are looking into how to eliminate the useless and convoluted information, and instead delivering more valuable and accessible information and services to the people by consolidating resources effectively, analysts said.

These initiatives are also aimed at alleviating the workload of local grassroots officials, enabling them to concentrate on ensuring information is readily available to the public, rather than solely managing specific social media platforms, they said.

Certainly, the closure of accounts does not signify that new media is irrelevant in grassroots efforts. In fact, it serves a crucial function in delivering services to the public and promoting policy information, Zhang noted.

"It is imperative for staff members to deepen their understanding of new media's unique features, tailor their efforts accordingly and leverage its strengths to effectively communicate in specific areas. By doing so, they can maximize the impact of new media in their work and achieve success in targeted initiatives," he said.

The official from Jiangxi told the Global Times that simply reporting on meetings or research in a rigid manner is unlikely to capture the interest of readers. Instead, government official accounts should offer a diverse range of content and utilize various forms to attract and engage audiences, the official said.

In December 2023, China's Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission issued a set of opinions on strengthening the management of applications and accounts of government bodies and public institutions to prevent and control pointless formalities on digital platforms.

The opinions stressed the principles of overall planning, high efficiency, safety and reliability in the construction, operation and management of such applications and accounts, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

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