News

    Confusion Follows China ‘Real Name’ Policy Deadline for Microblogs

    A new policy in China that requires microblog, or weibo, users to register with their real names went into effect last week.  Despite a large online outcry before the March 16 deadline, the new measure appears to be having a limited effect.  

    Many users on China’s popular Twitter-like microblogging sites such as Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo say they can still post messages online without registering with their real names and government identification numbers.

    Although users say applications for new members are being denied if they fail to provide the required information, some bloggers are finding a way around the requirement.  One opponent to the policy, a blogger who goes by the name of Jdxing, said there is already a computer program that generates fake identification numbers to help microbloggers remain anonymous.

    China says the real name policy is intended to limit the spread of rumors online and to protecting users.

    Communications expert Mike Yao, with the City University of Hong Kong, said, “There are a lot of unanswered questions as to why or how this policy will be implemented and why it was implemented to begin with.  My sense is that it is also politically motivated to curb expressions related to political issues as well.”

    Microblogs have become wildly popular in China in recent years, and state media reports that there are more than 300 million registered users.

    These sites are a major source of commentary in China on a wide range of topics.  Online postings played a key role in breaking news and serving as an outlet for disgust with the government, after a high-speed train wreck last year killed 40 people.

    Much like Twitter and others outside China, these sites are a place for Internet users to express their views about local issues and discuss matters such as life, love and the weather.

    Christopher Walker with the U.S.-based human rights monitoring group Freedom House, said “Anonymity has allowed open expression in large measure, at least far-less restrictive than other media in the country.  And the requirement now being imposed of real name identity, removes that freedom. It’s having a larger impact in suppressing users who are worried.  But most importantly, it’s going to have an impact on those who found the microblogging option to be particularly useful and valuable for communicating on more relevant and politically consequential issues that aren't so often able to comment in such a way on other media.”

    On the social networking site Google Plus, Chinese student Michael Lee told VOA that although he still can post messages on Sina Weibo, he is angry and sad about the new policy.  He says he fears the real name requirement will limit the type of discussions that made the online service appealing and allowed people to share their true thoughts.   

    Although it was the Beijing government that began the push to tighten controls on the media, service providers have been working with authorities to implement the new policy.

    Early last month, China’s four key weibo companies - Sina, Sohu, NetEase and Tencent - not the government, announced the March 16 deadline for real name identity.

    Mike Yao said that given the nature of relationships between the government and big companies in China, particularly companies involved in information and media, such a move is not a surprise. “The government of China is highly motivated to control the speech and communications online, on the Internet.  So I don’t think that is an option.  And maybe there will be some smaller companies who initially can get away with it [i.e., not adopt the policy].  But very quickly, if they have enough users, they will be forced to implement such policies.”

    Although it is unclear how strictly the policy will be enforced, Walker said it will have an impact. “One of the lessons we’ve learned in recent years with the censorship strategy used by the Chinese authorities is that they don’t seek to block everything.  They seek to manage and interfere with, and where necessary block, what they deem to be meaningful," he said.

    That is one reason why Michael Lee, a Sina Weibo user, says he has decided to switch to an overseas social media service.  He says that not only do microblogs in China delete postings, but also the government has people who routinely pose as regular users online and criticize anyone who opposes the government.  Lee says, from his point of view, freedom of expression is more important.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: There is No Confusion
    March 25, 2012 12:42 PM
    Increased attempts to limit freedom of speech and to control the press, the Internet, and Internet access. Efforts to silence political activists and public interest lawyers were stepped up, and increasingly the government resorted to extralegal measures including enforced disappearance, "soft detention," and strict house arrest, including house arrest of family members, to prevent the public voicing of independent opinions.

    by: Wangchuk
    March 23, 2012 6:10 AM
    This is part of CCP's plan to control political content on internet in China & to monitor dissent. It violates China's Constitution but CCP considers itself above the law & Constitution. Political freedoms in China, Tibet & Xinjiang have deteriorated greatly since 2008.

    by: pass by
    March 21, 2012 6:12 PM
    any news about politics rumors will be deleted in time.if you wanna express something against Government,take care of your words!

    by: Joey
    March 21, 2012 12:42 PM
    "...(the) policy is intended to limit the spread of rumors online."

    This is fascinating, a problem created by too much government control of news media, creating an appetite for any other news, will be solved by more tight controls of alternatives. A brilliant construct.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora