Shanghai Demands that Tweeting Critics Submit Their Real Names

Imagine you’re an authoritarian government, and many of your citizens have begun to self-organize anonymously on a service that facilitates quick communication among one another.  Now, imagine that they begin to criticize your government for corruption and food safety issues.  What would you do?  Well, the Chinese government has such a problem, and they’re responding by demanding that users of the service register their real names.

The Twitter like service, called Sina Weibo, is one of the largest social networks in China.  With a reported 200m users, the service is just about as large as Twitter, and according to a report from 2point6billion, those users have been voicing loud opinions on the web.

Since the fatal bullet train crash in July, Sina microbloggers have often expressed their dissatisfaction towards the official corruption, scandals and disasters by tweeting. Endless food safety issues – including re-used gutter oil as well as contaminated baby formulas – left angry netizens venting their frustrations on Weibo instead of reporting the cases to relevant authorities. Some netizens, like residents in Guangdong’s fishing village Wukan, used microblogging as a platform, where they could share and spread photos, videos and reports about their demonstrations against the government.

The government has been steadily pushing Weibo to ensure that they track the real names of users who use their service, and this month Beijing first took the step of requiring real name registration from users of Weibo.  This, of course, will then stifle the amount of criticism posted on the network, as China has made no secret about its stance on punishing people critical of their government.  Officially, though, the government and businesses are happy to have real names so that there are less reports of fake news and fake job ads.

What do you think?  Would you continue using Twitter if they demanded your real name?