Micro blog policy unclear for overseas users

Updated: 2012-02-09 07:10

By Cao Yin (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The upcoming regulation requiring micro blog users to register with their real identities has yet to set procedures for overseas users, China Daily has found.

The situation has puzzled foreign users without Chinese ID cards.

"I asked the website staff members what I should do, but they didn't answer," said Jeremy Goldkorn, a weibo user from South Africa and CEO of Danwei consulting.

Goldkorn said he has been paying attention to this regulation for a long time, but is still confused. "I registered with my real name since I started using weibo and I remembered no one asked me to provide a passport at that time."

"If the government requires me to register with a passport, I don't care," he said, adding the real-name registration will not affect his use of weibo.

Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like service, will require anyone registered after March 16 to provide their real identities to post or forward micro blogs.

The program will start with the seven websites in Beijing, including Sohu, NetEase and Sina before expanding across the country, the Beijing Internet authority said.

Bill Bishop, founder of a website named Market Watch and a weibo user, posted a micro blog on Feb 7, asking what to do after the real-name registration system is put into effect on March 16.

"I don't know what I can do to face such a regulation. I haven't thought about that," Bishop said, adding the government already knows his passport information.

China Daily posed the foreign users' questions to Tong Liqiang, deputy director of Beijing's Internet Information Office. He said they are studying the real-name registration for foreign accounts now, but refused to give more details.

Meanwhile, employees responsible for weibo service from Sohu said they so far have no specific solutions to verify foreign users.

In addition, potential users who choose "overseas" as their location when registering a weibo account, as well as those who are already "based overseas", may continue posting and forwarding micro blogs with existing identities - a situation which is also not explained by the websites.

At last count, there were 8 million blog accounts "based overseas", according to figures supplied by Sina.com.

"What we can do is to urge the websites to push for the real-name registration and hope they can encourage their weibo users to use their real identities before the deadline," Tong added.

Liu Xinzhi, an officer in charge of Sohu weibo, said they have provided cards for watching videos on the website and chargeable phone cards as rewards for those who use real identities.

Sohu is asking weibo users who registered before Dec 16 to verify their identifies, Liu said.

NetEase has also designed an online center to verify weibo users' identities since Feb 1.

In carrying out the real-name registration, Sina.com has reportedly given "real identity" icons to users who provide their real names and ID card numbers after verifying the information with public security organs.

Zhu Yuchen, a 23-year-old weibo user in Shanghai with a verified identity, welcomed the real-name registration system, "because such rules can avoid some netizens who spread rumors online".

"The real-name registration regulation will provide a cleaner and healthier online environment in China, while it is also better for officers to manage the Internet," said Qian Jun, a Beijing-based lawyer specializing in online cases.

However, Kou Fei, an employee of an educational company in Beijing, who opened an account with fake identity, said she will not use her weibo if she must be registered with real identity.

"I will leave the space, because I want to keep my weibo private," she said.

Yu Guoming, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication with Renmin University of China, also added the rule will negatively affect the development of the micro-blogging service, since some users will be afraid of speaking out if their identities are disclosed.