Beijing authorities finally banned anonymous microblogging, as the municipality published a set of new rules to regulate weibo. This attempt is necessary and should be encouraged because weibo has developed into a full-fledged public opinion center.
Weibo brought online public opinion expression into a new era, with both of its pros and cons being unprecedented. It's a great challenge for authorities to keep it positive while restricting the negative effects, and it's even more difficult to do both well at the same time.
Anonymity empowered weibo with the strength of public supervision, and the power could be overwhelming, especially for sensitive events. It's the mainstream nature of weibo which has propelled social change. However, anonymity also resulted in widespread irresponsible remarks, served as soil and air for rumors and encouraged fake online personas who manipulated Web opinions.
The new regulations, in theory, are pertinent to solving weibo's urgent problems without harming its good effects. South Korea has already ordered real-name registration for the Internet.
Some intellectuals are concerned the good intentions of real-name registration might be twisted by China's realities. The biggest worry is Chinese society does not have a high-degree free speech environment. The lack of anonymity could cause many people to shut up for fear of retaliation. The worry of privacy breaches is also prevalent.
Only by protecting the legitimate rights of speech can authorities convince the public of their fight against the abuse of weibo posts and make the regulations sustainable.
Opinions on unlimited post of weibo are split. Some are worried it may cause social disorder, while others welcome it and believe in online release of negative sentiments in the real world.
It's possible, yet challenging, to make use of its positive influence. But once we make use, it will be a breakthrough for reforms.
We must continue with the rules effectively, and allow no big mistakes or deviation from their good intentions. That includes making sure no personal information for bloggers leaks, rule breakers are punished according to law and attention is paid to public backlash to incidents.
The Internet is a product of Western culture, and it certainly met obstacles when entering China. It changed and was changed amid friction and interaction with Chinese society.
Real name microblogging is not a huge change to weibo itself. If applied properly, the new rules may further build credibility for the Chinese Internet. They could change the online world from a bathroom wall to a channel for rational expression of opinion.