Microblog users on net after deadline

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 March, 2012, 12:00am


Microblog users who had not submitted real names could still put up posts on Beijing-based services yesterday, the deadline set last month banning users who fail to register real names and identity card numbers.

Internet users' tests found that existing users and some newly registered ones could still post on popular microblog services at Sina.com, sohu.com and 163.com, as well as Shenzhen-based Tencent.com, which was ordered to implement the real-name system in December.

Jason Ng, a Beijing-based blogger, said the move was likely to suffer the same fate as the content control software Green Dam Youth Escort, which officials wanted installed on all computers. It never happened.

'Microblog service providers might adopt a passive approach and they are apparently waiting to see what will happen,' Ng said.

The mainland has more than 300 million microblog users, more than half of its 517 million internet users, although many people have more than one account.

The guidelines said microblog users must provide real names and identity card numbers before posting or reposting online, with their nicknames being shown to others.

Analysts said authorities wanted to use the real-name registration system to better monitor and control public opinion, while using government microblog accounts to guide views. It would also make it easier for police to track people who posted 'unharmonious' content.

Major microblog operators have tried to encourage their users to provide details since January by alerting them with private online messages and offering video VIP membership for 60 days or lucky-prize draws.

Li Fang, who is in charge of Tencent's microblog operations, pledged to strictly follow the government guidelines, but refused to disclose how many users had registered.

About a quarter of microbloggers on 163.com had registered, The Beijing News reported. Sina Weibo spokesman Liu Qi told the Guangzhou Daily on Tuesday that 60 per cent of users would have registered by yesterday.

Bruce Tang, a Beijing-based internet analyst, said real-name registration would raise microblogs' operating costs, which were high to due to personnel and software demands. 'The move is only a gimmick ahead of the leadership reshuffle and operators would have their own countermeasures,' he said, referring to the 18th party congress in autumn.

Microbloggers complaints cover inequality, official corruption and man-made disasters, rivalling the influence of state-controlled media.

Officials acknowledge that microblogs provide useful outlets for critical public opinion, but repeatedly accuse microbloggers of spreading unfounded rumours and vulgarity.

'Everyone yearns to speak their minds. We are not afraid of real names, but we fear our legal rights are trampled on by people in power,' one internet user said on Sina Weibo.