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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs