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People's Daily Online>>China Society

New microblog rules confound companies

By Wei Na  (Global Times)

10:31, December 21, 2011

Major microblog operators are complaining about an absence of guidance from the government about its new regulations. Beijing issued new rules last Friday to demand microblog users register using real names within the next three months.

Under the new "Beijing Microblog Development and Management Regulations," microblog users will still be able to post under nicknames, but their account must be tied to verifiable information about their identity.

"We have not been informed by any government department what 'real name registration' encompasses, nor how we are supposed to manage accounts registered outside of Beijing, nothing has changed," said Liu Qi, Public Relations director of Sina Weibo.

According to Liu, there are over 250 million accounts registered on Sina Weibo, and 1.8 million of those have been verified.

"Verified" is a status given to users who have confirmed their real name, cell phone number, ID number and occupation with Sina.

Nearly half of the company's 250 million accounts have already been tied to cell phone numbers. Sina considers this to mean that these users are partially compliant with a real name registration.

"Promoting a system where users authenticate their details for microblog IDs has been part of our work even before the regulation, to improve the credibility of our platform, but we still don't know if that's enough to meet the new standards," said Liu.

Tencent, another leading Chinese microblogging platform based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, is also unaware of any guidance over the regulations, but confirmed they were expecting the new rules to come into force soon.

"Though we have 310 million worldwide accounts, since we are based in Shenzhen, we will implement regulations issued by Guangdong government," said Tencent's microblog publicity director surnamed Xu.

"The details behind Beijing's regulations are not clear, like what kind of information qualifies as 'real-name registration,' and how we are supposed to manage accounts registered in other countries. We hope Guangdong's regulations will be more detailed than that," added Xu.

The Beijing Internet Information Office (BIIO), which jointly issued the regulations with three other departments, couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.

Tong Liqiang, the deputy director of BIIO, told the Global Times last Friday that almost two thirds of the country's Web users are registered in Beijing, and the government was "still figuring out how to effectively regulate them."

While companies are calling for clarity, microblog users are not keen for more details to emerge, citing concerns over invasion of privacy while online.

"Maybe someone who is posting their attempt to commit suicide could be located faster, but it feels like we have to watch our backs while we speak on the Internet," said a Beijing resident surnamed Dong who registered on Sina Weibo last year.

Operators are also concerned about their platforms losing vitality. On Monday the Global Times reported that shares in Sina had fallen by 11 percent on Friday when the new regulations were announced. They rebounded shortly afterwards.

Xu has fears for Tencent's own microblogging platform t.qq.com.

"We don't know what will happen in the future, hopefully there will be some flexibility to reassure our users as well as not breaking the government's regulations," Xu said.

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