Tencent’s mobile messaging behemoth Weixin (known as WeChat outside China) is, like other Chinese messaging services, legally responsible to some extent for the content its users share. And although the service is extremely popular, users have expressed concerns about how safe it is when strangers can pretend to be whoever they want. For these reasons, the company had previously initiated an optional real-name verification system, but recently suspended it temporarily. Now, it’s back open with a brand-new auto-verification option: users who have verified accounts on Sina Weibo or Tencent Weibo can log in via those accounts to have their Weixin accounts verified automatically.
The new verification system appears to be only in effect within China, and should not affect overseas users of WeChat in any way.
The system is a smart move on Tencent’s part, for several reasons. First, it greatly reduces the workload of the verification process, which would otherwise require each verification request to be processed by a Tencent employee. Second, it increases the ease of verification for new Weixin users in China and thus increases the likelihood that they will choose to verify their accounts. Finally, it allows users who would prefer to, ahem, circumnavigate real-name verification to verify via their Sina Weibo accounts (since Sina’s implementation of real-name requirements has been pretty half-assed by the company’s own admission).
As a chat app, the need for any political censorship on Weixin that would be facilitated by a real-name system is probably not as significant as it is on weibo, but the location-based nature of the app could facilitate stalking in such a way that real-name verification might become something that users actually demand. If that happens, allowing users to verify their identities via Weibo could turn out to be a bit of a mistake, as users are well aware of the holes in weibo real-name registration. But if that doesn’t happen, this change will have been a smart move for Tencent to ease the verification process both for users and for itself.
[Sohu IT via TechWeb]