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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

Real names on Weibo points to progress

By Yu Jincui   (Global Times)

14:38, December 19, 2011

The Beijing municipal government on Friday issued new rules to demand Weibo users register their real names before being allowed to post. This is an opportunity to establish a high-quality public opinion environment for online expression. Microblog operators and administrators should carefully implement these new rules to make Weibo a more serious and powerful means for communication. Otherwise, the culture of open expression formed on Weibo will come to nothing.

After the release of the new rules, some expressed their support for the new regulations while some opposed them. There are worries concerning whether the freedom of expression on Weibo will be restrained or whether public opinion online will lose its vitality.

In China, online criticism seems to be rampant and unscrupulous, but most of it is expressed anonymously. Critics who are brave enough to identify themselves are few in number. People worry that they will be hounded if they express criticism. It is hard to say whether this perception outstrips the truth, but one certainty is that those who were exposed will have a more difficult time exacting revenge.

The real-name registration system has been promoted in many fields of China for years, such as the real-name registration system for mobile phone users and bank accounts. The system's negative influences are smaller than expected and its positive influences are many.

China's expression of public opinion cannot always stay at an anonymous level. The society has seen many anonymous tip-offs against corruption, but fake information mixed among them has impaired government work. Real name informer letters are more favorable to relevant authorities and more effective, so they are widely promoted and are adopted by more informants.

Reporting corruption and criticizing the government on the Internet may see their frequency initially reduced by the real-name registration system for Weibo users. To strengthen Weibo management, it calls for a strong and effective combat on retaliation microbloggers may face.

This is the key to the successes of the system. The goal of the new regulations is by no means to have a silent Weibo, if such a situation occurs, it will bring more damage to society than the current look of Weibo.

Chinese society demands a higher level of democratization, which means a solid foundation for expression of opinion and supervision should be formed. If people are only willing to speak anonymously, our democracy and freedom will be threatened.

China has had more than 30 years of reform and opening-up. It should have the courage to proceed with the adjustment of Weibo. The real-name registration system is not harshly forced by the government and does not deprive people of their right to speak, but aims to strengthen online discourse.

Weibo is a new and controversial tool. How to manage it is also controversial.

But China's progress often stems from controversy. Judging the real-name registration system for Weibo users depends on whether the system promotes the prosperity of Weibo and improvement of Chinese public opinion.

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