Leading Chinese social media site Sina Weibo is encouraging its users to verify their identities to help combat false rumours on its microblogging service, according to a company representative who spoke to China Daily.
The expansion of the verification system will mean ordinary Sina Weibo users who confirm their identity using their ID number will get a ‘verified’ status and a newly introduced “honor badge”. Currently, Sina’s verification also covers celebrities (as Twitter does), in addition to journalists, other media and representatives of companies.
The Chinese government was rumoured to have considered implementing a mandatory real name policy for Internet sites; as yet, however, the use of real names remains voluntary. Sina’s move to incentivise it is an interesting approach, although it is unlikely to attract the vast majority of its 250 million users, many of whom are concerned by the repercussions that identification and increased accountability would bring.
“We are encouraging micro-bloggers to apply for the real name system, but we don’t expect all users to do that,” said a company source, who subsequently commented that the new system will help “keep things clean”.
The move comes after the Chinese government recently agreed on a new policy with the country’s top Internet companies to crack down on fake rumours online. Amongst the new measures is a rule that necessitates reporters to verify all leads taken from Internet-based sources before writing about them.
Sina is already actively working to battle false information on the site, as the head of its ‘rumor control team’ revealed in October. The company is hoping that the use of real names will discourage users from posting or reposting content that is deemed harmful, but it remains to be seen just how many users will sign up.