Sina Weibo to show online influencers’ real names on their account pages to curb cyberspace chaos
Published: Oct 16, 2023 10:20 PM
Sina Weibo app Photo: VCG

Sina Weibo app Photo: VCG

Sina Weibo, China's equivalent of X (formerly known as Twitter), reportedly will start to publish the real names of online influencers on their front account page by the end of October, a move that experts believe is being made to further curb cyberspace chaos and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of users.   
The new adjustment, posted by several online influencers on Sina Weibo over the past two days, has garnered more than 40 million views on the platform as of press time, sparking wide discussion. Some netizens favored the move as they feel it will deal a blow against online disinformation and malicious cyber violence while others were rattled by the phase-out of online anonymity, saying the measure would infringe on their privacy.
The Global Times on Monday confirmed the news with several online influencers, though no official news from Sina Weibo has been confirmed as of Monday night. 

Some online influencers told the Global Times that they were notified by the platform about the new settings. They said that the change would be phased in, with users with more than 1 million fans having to display their real names on their account page by the end of October and influential users with more than 500,000 fans having to do the same before the end of December. 

The new rule will cover online influencers in the fields of politics, finance and amusement. Those in food and cosmetics are excluded, according to the online influencers contacted by the Global Times.

Zhuang Shilihe, a Guangzhou-based online influencer in the field of medicine with more than 1.6 million followers, told the Global Times he was also notified by Sina Weibo about the new change. Zhuang said he is not surprised by the change since he said the greater the online traffic one has, the greater the responsibility one should bear, especially when it comes to some political, entertainment and financial topics, which makes online influencers different from ordinary users.

Zhu Wei, a vice director of the Communication Law Research Center at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Monday that the display of real names will help curb the spread of misinformation and malicious online violence brought by some online influencers, and to ensure the authenticity of the content disseminated. 

"A real-name display would deter those who attempt to maneuver public opinion for the clout-chasing," an internet user named dongfangtanxing posted. "It is not a bad idea since it would show the cloven hoof of those who engage in illegal behaviors online and reduce the risk for the platform," another called Junming posted. 

For ordinary users, a real-name display would empower them to protect their own rights when they suffer from online bullying, violence and the spread of misinformation. For example, it would largely simplify bringing lawsuits against online influencers, Zhu noted. 
Some are concerned that the lack of online anonymity may harm their freedom of speech. They said many users dare to speak freely on the internet because anonymity acts like a protective vest. Commenting on this view, Zhu said cyberspace is not a space for outlaws. Cyberspace is virtual, but the subject of its use is real. Everyone should abide by the law and clarify the rights and obligations of all parties.
According to the notices sent by Sina Weibo to online influencers that were obtained by the Global Times, the new rule is an implementation of the latest 13 management regulations issued by the Cyberspace Administration of China in July.

The regulations said they aim to strengthen the management of "self-media," consolidate the main responsibility of online platform information content management, improve normal management systems and mechanisms, and promote the formation of a good environment for online public opinions.

Back in 2017, the Cyberspace Administration of China began requiring that social media platforms in the country should register the real names of online users and that platforms should not provide comment services to users who have not authenticated their real identity. It did not mandate the display of real names on user account pages. 

That same year, Sina Weibo asked all users to verify their phone numbers as a way to register their real names when using the platform. 

If implemented, the new rule would be a fresh move in the country to create a clean and healthy cyberspace, following social media platforms' move in 2022 to display user IP locations on people's account pages when posting comments. For users in China, the platforms display the province or municipality where they are posting from. For users overseas, the country to which their IP addresses belong to is displayed.