We’ve known since the first week of January that real-name registration was going to be a government-mandated requirement on Chinese Twitter-like services – and now we know the deadline will be March 16th.
That’s the day by which current users of the major ‘Weibo’ platforms – such as Sina’s (NASDAQ:SINA) Weibo.com, and Tencent’s (HKG:0700) t.qq.com – must submit their national ID (or foreigners may use their passports) so that the service has the real name of every user on file. If you fail to do so, there’s no punishment as such; you’ll still be able to login to your account and read your stream, but you won’t be able to post. The government claims that it’s being implemented to prevent harmful mistruths and rumors getting circulated online, but many skeptics say it is yet another move to repress freedom of speech on China’s lively microblogging sites.
The real-name registration has been in place for new signups since the start of January, so the roll-out isn’t new in itself.
A ‘Meagre’ 3 Million Sina Sign-Ups?
According to reports in the Chinese media, three million people have registered with Sina’s Weibo with their real ID in the past month. That sounds like a lot, but it’s way down on the 20 million or so new users that were coming onboard before. Either the new system is scaring away spambots and zombie account makers, or genuine users are being put off by the new regulations. If it’s the latter, then this could be a grim year for Sina and Tencent – plus the other major micr0blog platforms – as they lose new and existing users in droves. Perhaps it’s the beginning of the end of Twitter-like services in China.
So, what’s your take on all this? If you’re an existing user of one of the Weibo services, will you register your real name, or shut down your account in disgust?