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Very Strange Things Are Happening with Sina Weibo’s “Real-Name” Registration

We’ve been talking about real-name registration for microblogs in China for some time now, and today that day might finally be here. But has the real name regulation actually stopped anyone from posting? It doesn’t look like it.

This morning, I noticed my own Sina Weibo account had this message from Sina:

Hello, because you’re a user who filled out your identification information, we’ve already implemented real-name registration, and you can continue to use your microblog as usual. Thank you for supporting Sina.

This was quite a surprise to me, since I never filled out any identification information whatsoever. I’ve been very careful about not giving Sina anything, not even a phone number, because I don’t trust them and because I’ve wanted to test how this real name system would work. If Sina knows who I am, it’s not because of any information I gave them. And yet, here I am, registered. Bizarre.

I hopped on Twitter and Weibo to see what other people were reporting and found a number of other users reporting the same thing. Here are some posts from Weibo users about it:

榛子壳Renky:

I’m not a verified user, but I got [a message] saying real-name identity confirmed. It also told me to keep using weibo…the world is really crazy.

当锄和遇上当午:

[...] I don’t think I ever submitted any information [to Sina], but I’ve been registered. Depressing.

沐沐Maggie:

Hah, I just realized I’ve already been real-name registered [by Sina]

馮聖senck:

My weibo has been real-name registered! Wha!? It’s like being imprisoned.

On Twitter, weibo users are reporting all kinds of things. Some had the same experience as me, others have had gotten different messages or no messages at all, but the net result is that no one is complaining their weibo has been totally unable to post. There are some references to this on weibo itself, but it’s not really clear how many, if any, users have actually been restricted from posting.

It’s possible that some of the weibo users saying they’ve “been registered [by someone else]” have simply forgotten that they’ve connected a cell phone number to their account. But I am completely positive I never bound a cell phone to my account or submitted ID information to Sina, and double-checking my account settings confirms that Sina doesn’t have this information. So what they heck is going on? I’m not at all sure.

As an interesting side note, I also noticed many weibo users are complaining about increased spam since the real-name rule went into effect — or seems to have gone into effect — last night. That’s the exact opposite of the effect the real-name regulation was supposed to have, but it could just be a temporary bug.

In fact, this whole thing could just be a temporary bug. It’s still not clear at all what exactly is going on here; needless to say, it’s something we’ll be following closely.



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