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China asks micro-blog users to register real-names

The Sydney News.Net
Wednesday 18th January, 2012

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China to promote micro-blog through real name registration
BEIJING - China has decided to promote the use of micro-blogs through expansion of real-name registration for users in its latest step to better control wildly popular Twitter-like websites, expand the use of government spokespeople and boost the overseas reach of state media.

Chinese government departments have traditionally been tight-lipped, a result of authoritarian one-party rule in which officials had little accountability to the public and policies were drafted in high-level meetings without input from ordinary citizens.

Henceforth, China will strive to be more open about the often secretive workings of the government and ruling Communist Party, although strict controls over the Internet would remain in place, a senior official said Wednesday.

"Currently, this type of registration is being tested in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, and we will extend it to other areas once the pilot programmes prove successful," Wang Chen, minister in charge of the State Council Information Office (SCIO), told reporters in Beijing.

A unit of the SCIO, the State Internet Information Office, is the main agency responsible for regulating the Internet.

Despite repeatedly accusing micro-blogers of spreading, what they call, unfounded rumors and vulgarities, officials acknowledge that micro-blog are critical outlet for creating public opinion.

"Micro-blog on one hand can reflect the social situation and public opinion, and broadcast a positive public voice," Wang said.

"At the same time, micro-blog ... can make it easy to disseminate a few irrational voices, negative public opinion and harmful information," he added.

In the past, SCIO officials have issued warnings that online content must be acceptable to the ruling Communist Party.

The Beijing city government said in December it would tighten control over micro-blog, which have vexed authorities with rapid dissemination of news. Several human rights activists have been threatened and even detained for their online articles.

Nearly half of China's 513 million netizens used weibo sites - Twitter equivalents - last year compared to 63 million in 2010, the China Internet Network Information Center report said.

The think tank estimates that of the over 300 million registered micro-bloggers, many people have more than one account.

The government has decided to give micro-bloggers three months to register with their real names or face legal consequences..

Wang said name verification will be standard for new users of micro-blog, such as Sina's Weibo, which allow users to issue short messages of opinion - a maximum of 140 Chinese characters - that can course through chains of followers who receive messages instantly.

Existing users will be required to register later, the official said.

Authorities already block foreign social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook as well as Youtube, fearing the uncensored sharing of images and information could cause instability and harm national security.
 

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