Beijing Says Real Names to Be Required for Microblogs

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CCTV reports on new Weibo rules

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:

new rules say must be real name registered to send weibos. if beijing serious expect 60-80% decline in real weibo user #s $sinaFri Dec 16 04:33:41 via Twitter for iPhone

[CCTV via Sina, h/t to @niubi on Twitter for linking this]

(And yes, we're serious about ethics and transparency. More information here.)

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