According to the rules on Beijing’s microblog management, which went into effect Friday, web users need to give their real names to website administrators before being allowed to put up microblog posts.
Bloggers, however, are free to choose their screen names, said a spokesman with the Beijing Internet Information Office (BIIO), the city’s web content management authority.
“The new rules are aimed at protecting web users’ interests and improving credibility on the web,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some analysts say the real-name registration could dampen some of the freewheeling conversations that take place online, and that sometimes result in a large number of users criticizing officials and government policy.
The rule on real-name registration had been expected for several months now by industry watchers, and Internet companies in China had already experimented in 2009 with some forms of this. It was the ninth of 17 new microblog regulations issued on Friday by Beijing government officials, who have been charged by central authorities with reining in the way microblogs are used.
The regulations also include a licensing requirement for companies that want to host microblogs and prohibitions on content, including posts aimed at “spreading rumors, disturbing social order or undermining social stability.” But officials have long put pressure on microblog companies to self-censor, and the lists of limits on content are more an articulation of the boundaries already in place.
Sina, which runs China’s most popular microblogging service, initially saw its stock drop 11% upon the announcement. On China Media Project, journalist Zhan Jiang wrote a list of four reasons that the Beijing government should drop the new regulations.