Now that Anthony Weiner has resigned from the House of Representatives, the frenzy surrounding the sexually explicit messages he sent women on Twitter is beginning to die down. But similar scandals are cropping up elsewhere in the world. It's an age, as The New York Times put it yesterday, when the Internet has become "the place where anonymity dies."
Let's start in China. Earlier this week we learned from the Guangzhou Daily, visuals and all, that nude photos of Liu Ning, a district official in Guangzhou, were circulating on Chinese social networks after he posted them to the Twitter-like Sina Weibo during what he described as an online chat, and that local authorities were investigating the incident. Then we found out that Xie Zhiqiang, the health bureau director in the city of Liyang in Jiangsu Province, is also under investigation for similar behavior. According to the Xinhua news service, authorities have Xie's flirtations on Sina Weibo with a married woman with whom he appeared to be having an affair, broaching topics ranging from hotel dates to the illegal redemption of personal expenses. "Amazingly," writes Li Chen at Penn Olson, "even after their Weibo chats attracted thousands of followers, they had no idea that Weibo was a public place, and that messages were visible to anyone. They thought it was a private QQ-like instant message service!" In fact, when Xie, who has confirmed that the account was his, was contacted by a local newspaper, he asked, incredulously, "How can you view our messages on Weibo? It is impossible, isn't it?" The Chinese website SHM.com.cn posted the screenshot of Xie's chats on the right.