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
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs