Chinese authorities have begun trialling the newly announced ‘real-name’ regulations that will force all microbloggers in the country to verify their account with their ID, according to a report from PC Advisor.
The government has revealed that testing began late last year in the five cities that were initially covered by the rule; Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Once the pilot is complete, it will be expanded to cover other parts of the country, according to Wang Chen, the head of China’s State Council Information Office.
There is no time frame put forward for the plan, however the government did initially state that existing Weibo users would have a three month window before being obligated to identify themselves through their account. That would indicate that a full implementation would happen in March.
Chinese authorities went public with plans to introduce the measures in December, although rumour that it was planning to crack down on anonymous Internet users and harmful information had been rife since October.
It is one of 16 regulations for the country’s Twitter alternatives, which include Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo, as authorities look to increase accountability online, having recently agreed a set of new content principles with leading Chinese Internet firms.
The real-name policy is more akin to official verification than a Google+ style insistence on given names. Sina, which is China’s most popular microblog provider, already encourages users to link their national ID to their account by offering badges and other incentives to do so. However, journalists and others who use Weibo to share content that pushes the envelope, may be less reluctant to sign up.
China’s government, alongside other authorities in Asia, have handed out severe punishments to Internet users that have contributed “harmful information” online, which can range from statements to news reports, or even jokes — like the one this woman retweeted — that the state would prefer to see kept quiet.