American actor Brad Pitt has been banned from China proper for some time thanks to his performance in Seven Years in Tibet, a film that China’s government was not a fan of (to put it mildly). But now, it appears Pitt may also be banned from Chinese cyberspace, as a Sina Weibo account he set up last month has apparently been deactivated.
Pitt’s account had been verified as legitimate by Sina, and under the handle @Brad_Pitt he sparked quite an uproar when he joined weibo and posted the cryptic message:
It is the truth. Yup, I’m coming…
But apparently Pitt spoke too soon, as his weibo account is now gone. Pitt’s account, which had been located here, now results in Sina’s default “page doesn’t exist” error message (pictured below) and the page’s URL indicates that the user account itself no longer exists.
So Pitt is no longer on weibo; that much is clear. Everything else about this story is a bit more opaque. Among other things, it’s not clear exactly when the account went down, or how. It’s possible that Pitt dismantled the account himself, though I’m not sure why he would do that barely a month after setting it up. It’s also possible that Sina itself removed Pitt’s account. Finally, it could be that Sina allowed the account but then was ordered to remove it by Chinese authorities after word of Pitt’s weibo presence got out.
Personally, I find the second explanation — that Sina removed Pitt’s account itself — to be the most likely. Admittedly, it sounds a little odd given that the company had already verified the account and thus was obviously aware Pitt was joining. But it’s possible that the speculation surrounding Pitt’s first message — and the fact that it led to net users discussing Pitt’s ban from entering China and Seven Years in Tibet — made the whole thing a bit too political for Sina’s taste, so the company bailed on Brad. It’s also possible that one department of Sina verified Pitt’s account before the content (read: censorship) department got a chance to take a look at it, and when the content guys finally noticed, they pulled the plug.