Chinese Twitter-like service braces for negative impact of real-name registration

Only 60 percent of users who have agreed to register with their real identities actually qualify, Sina said

Beijing's new real-name registration policy for the nation's Twitter-like platforms could lead to a "dramatic scenario", preventing many users from publishing their posts, according to microblogging site Sina Weibo, which has been working to implement the new system among its users.

By March 16, users on China's Twitter-like platforms will be required to register their real identities in order to publish posts on the sites. Users can however opt out of the policy, and instead become "read-only" users.

Sina Weibo, one of the largest Twitter-like platforms in the country, reported on Tuesday that its total registered users had reached more than 300 million, with daily active users at about 27 million. Over the last two months, the site has been encouraging users to register with their real identities. But the process has been difficult and it will take time to get more users on board, Sina CEO Charles Chao said during a conference call.

"Although we have sent out messages, so far the response rate was quite low," he said.

Of the users who have chosen to register with the real-name system, only about 60 percent actually succeed in meeting the requirements, Chao added. The other 40 percent later dropped out of the registration process because the personal ID information provided did not match with state records.

"If fully implemented in the near future, (the policy) will have a negative impact on user activities in the short-term." Chao said. "In a very dramatic scenario, (users) may not be able to speak, or to post messages, but hopefully that's not going to happen."

Beijing's city government announced the new regulations in December, as a way to stop harmful information from spreading on the social networking sites, which have also become forums to criticize authorities. Some Sina Weibo users have worried that the real-name registration will allow the government to monitor their actions on the sites.

Currently, about half of Sina's 27 million active daily users publish posts, Chao said. The other half mainly read posts. Since Beijing's new real-name registration policy was announced in December, Sina Weibo's active daily user growth has increased by 8 to 10 percent, he added.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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