Big Brother Gets Tough on Weibo, Sina Balks

Big Brother Gets Tough on Weibo, Sina Balks

The CEO of Sina Corp., home to China’s wildly popular Twitter-like Weibo, has publicly warned that new real-name registration requirements will do damage to the microblogging platform. In early February, it was announced that effective March 16 new microblog users would be required to register with their real names and government-issued identification numbers in order to be able to post and retweet. VOA Chinese reports:

Chinese Internet giant Sina warned on Tuesday that the government’s real-name registration requirements will hurt the country’s largest social networking service.

Sina Corp. CEO Charles Chao said that since the Beijing municipal government implemented real-name registration in December, over 40% of new users have failed to pass identity verification.

Sina Weibo requires all users to provide authentic identification when they register a new account, directly affecting their freedom to post their personal opinions. Previously, Weibo did not require new users to divulge personal information, which made users feel more comfortable to speak their minds.

Chao said, “We can’t guarantee that stricter policies won’t appear later on. This will impact the growth of our user base and negatively effect user activity.”

Despite government monitoring, Chao pointed out that the number of Sina Weibo users doubled in 2011, reaching a total of 300 million. The company will continue to “invest heavily” in Weibo.

Chao issued this statement on the same day Sina reported its fourth quarter earnings. The company made a net profit of USD 9.3 million. Net revenue grew 21% to USD 130 million.

Other measures that may be packaged with real-name registration were posted on Google+ today:

Requirements included in the notice of implementation of the microblog real-name registration system:

  • Posts by users with over 100,000 followers will undergo item-by-item examination. No post will be published before it is checked;
  • Posts by blacklisted users will undergo item-by-item examination. No post will be published before it is checked;
  • Posts marked as illegal and harmful will be deleted within five minutes;
  • The technical interface [of the microblog] will be open to specialized search engines used by public security organs;
  • Measures to filter designated keywords will go into effect ten minutes after the order is issued;
  • Images or video containing specified text may be deleted with one keystroke;
  • The re-posting and commenting functions from a designated IP address or source may be controlled;
  • Capacity to control publishing function from a designated location, IP address, or source may be controlled;
  • 24/7 monitoring will be established;
  • Capability to suspend all event-posting functions will be established;
  • User registration information will be stored long-term;
  • User log in information will be stored for one year;
  • Client software or mobile phone recording terminals will be used to distinguish mobile phone serial numbers;
  • Log information will be supplied to public security organs in real time;
  • A system for evaluating and informing the authorities of future events will be established.
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