bulletin board systems

Bulletin board systems (BBSs) are one of the network services provided on the Internet. They are asynchronous online discussion forums classified by topics. Internet users in China may access at least five types of BBSs. The first type is affiliated with official media agencies. The best known of this type is the ‘Strengthening the Nation Forum’ (Qiangguo luntan) affiliated with the online edition of People’s Daily. The second type comes as part of the services offered by commercial portal sites. For example, sina.com, netease.com and sohu.com all run BBS forums. The third type is run by individuals on free web space. Some BBSs in this category attract many visitors; most have a small circle of users. Fourth, users in China may access some BBS forums on overseas computer servers. Finally, the fifth type of BBSs is run by professional and educational institutions. The most popular among these are the numerous university-run BBSs.
China’s first university BBS was set up in 1995 at Qinghua University. Others quickly followed at Peking University, Xi’an Jiaotong University and so forth. By November 2000, the top-ranking portal site, sohu.com, had listed seventy university-based BBSs. In almost all cases, one bulletin board system supports many different forums. For example, as of 8 December 2000, Peking University had 149 forums in its BBS (http://bbs.pku.edu.cn/) and Xi’an Jiaotong University (http://bbs.xjtu.edu.cn/cgi-bin/bbsall) had 129 forums. The total number of university-based BBS forums can easily be estimated in the thousands.
BBSs became popular among Chinese university students because they provide several useful functions. People may use the BBS to follow current affairs, seek and share information, discuss academic questions, socialize and make friends, and even lodge complaints. At times, the postings may engage social problems, touch on politically sensitive issues, or directly criticize the government. In several documented cases, online bulletin boards have been used for popular protest.
There is an elaborate set of rules and regulations concerning Internet uses and services in China, which apply to the university BBSs directly or indirectly. One regulation promulgated in November 2000 explicitly targets the use of BBSs. It stipulates, for example, that all BBS users are responsible for the information they release, that users cannot release information deemed harmful to national interests, and that bulletin board services should follow a licensing procedure. A complete list of Internet regulations in China is available at the official website of the China Internet Network Information Centre, http://www.cnnic.net.cn. Despite these regulations, the actual management of BBSs varies a great deal in terms of control and censorship.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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