Well, we all knew something was coming. After months of rumblings about stronger controls on microblogging sites, China’s official media is reporting today that the Beijing municipal government has published a new list of sixteen regulations for microblogs. Among these regulations is the rule that users must use real-name registration — i.e. connect their account to their identity and official state ID number — before they can post anything. Users who don’t register with their real names will be able to browse weibo postings, but not post themselves.
It’s perhaps worth explaining here that this isn’t “real-name registration” the way that Facebook does it. Users can still register usernames as whatever they’d like them to be; what’s required is that the microblogging operator has their actual identification on file so that they can be held responsible for anything they tweet.
In the report we linked, the regulation is presented as an effort to cut down on zombies and the buying and selling of followers. However, the regulation is also a way for the government to exert some pressure on microblog users who spread political and news stories authorities don’t want spread.
When these rules will go into effect, or how widely they’re actually implemented, remains to be seen. But if they’re for real, the impact on China’s microblogging scene could be tremendous. As Bill Bishop of Digicha wrote on Twitter this afternoon: