Beijing Sets March Deadline for Microblog Users to Register Using Real Names

Posted February 8th, 2012 at 12:20 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese media reports say that Internet users in Beijing will no longer be able to post anonymous comments on microblogs as of mid-March.

The official newspaper of China's Communist Party, the People's Daily, said Wednesday that all microblog users in the Chinese capital must register using their real names by March 16 or be banned from posting or forwarding messages.

The move comes as Chinese authorities tighten their control on the Internet amid fears that it could fuel unrest ahead of a rare transition in Communist Party leadership later in the year.

The paper quoted an official with the Beijing Internet Information Office, Tong Liqiang, as saying the move “has won the support of the majority of web users” in China.

But many Chinese Internet users have publicly criticized the new policy, saying it will stifle free speech and allow the government to crack down on those with dissenting opinions.

The government says the policy is aimed at maintaining social stability, and that it will help stop the spread of false rumors and inappropriate material.

The People's Daily report says many high-profile Chinese microbloggers have already quit posting comments online in protest of the new policy.

Many social media websites are reportedly offering incentives, such as access to premium services, for those who agree to register using their real names.

Since late last year, Beijing and several other major cities have required new microblog users to disclose their real identities. Officials say the policy will soon be extended to all of the country's estimated 250 million microblog users.

Though popular foreign websites such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked, about half of China's online population uses hugely popular local equivalents, known as weibos.