Weibo users given one-week warning to provide real names

The 340 million users of Sina Weibo, China’s popular microblogging service, have been given one week to link their accounts to a real name. The crackdown is being conducted in order to comply with new government rules restricting anonymous online conversation.

There have actually been similar rules since 2011, but the company never really enforced them, since, as has been demonstrated over and over, enforcing a real-name requirement is easier said than done. Many users would rather quit than submit to having their online communications, previously anonymous or pseudonymous, attached to their real identity.

It’s all part of a redoubled effort toward censorship on the part of the Chinese government, which in addition to instituting the real-name rule last month has been combating VPN use, further pruning online discussion and limiting foreign content. No dissent, please! It’s unpatriotic.

This real-name rule may prove to be the downfall of Weibo, which has a Twitter-like role in China despite being submitted to constant and increasing censorship. If it really has to kick off anyone who doesn’t provide adequate documentation of their identity, it may lose millions and millions of users.