China Further Tightens Its Control over Microblogs

On expected lines, China announced new rules to further control micro blogging sites, asking users to register with their real names.

The new regulations announced on Friday by the Beijing Municipal government, strictly bans the tweeting of appeals for un-authorized gatherings. The move is expected to push companies behind social networks to apply for Government approval.

Weibo; the Chinese version of Twitter was full of opinions and reactions to the new regulations, some vehemently rejecting the move. People believe the move will further reduce the potency of micro blogs and could pose a challenge to their survival as a business model.

The ruling Communist party’s existing draconian Internet censorship laws have been challenged by the surge in the influence of micro blogs with real-time news sharing and multiple sources to confirm them. The party’s patience snapped after social-media fueled criticism of the Government; post the collision of two bullet trains in July. The Government has put up its defense stating rumor-mongering through micro blogs was highly prevalent.

Top-ranking government officials have pressurized Sina, the company behind Weibo to follow stringer self-regulative measures. It has also stepped up its efforts in punishing Internet users spreading misleading or harmful content. Sina officials have declined to commit on any time frame to implement the regulations for real-name registration. Industry experts point to the usage of the system used by the Police department for real-time online identity checks.

Baidu, China’s largest online search engine built Shuoba, a real-name social media network. The company disbanded the network after it failed to garner interest and also due to high costs of approximately 63 cents per query. The question to be answered now is Whether Sina will have to bear the costs; if they were to, then it would be a precarious situation for them.

Beijing’s move is no surprise considering its previous practices of Internet censorship. Regulation is left to the responsibility of the local governments where the Internet firms are registered; which has led to spotty censorship levels across the country.

Tencent; China’s largest internet firm by revenues, also operates a micro blogging site; since the company is based in Shenzhen, in Guangdong province, it is not expected to adhere by the Beijing municipal authorities’ regulations. The fact that the ideology of the regulation stems from the Chinese Central government; it is only a matter of time.

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