All the four major weibo service providers, Sina (sina.com.cn), Sohu (sohu.com), Wangyi (163.com), and Tencent (qq.com) are to implement its identity verification required by the Beijing municipal government in ten minutes. The existing users of weibo will have to verify their identities by linking their Weibo accounts to their cell phone numbers, which required an resident ID on registration, or providing their resident ID numbers. Otherwise, they will not be able to post, repost, or comment on weibo although they can still view others’ posts. All the new users will have to verify their identities when they register new accounts.
If there’s an internet policy that everybody hates, this might well be the one. People on Weibo don’t hold back ranting about it.
“I’m out of here ,” a Sina Weibo user writes.
Weibo has been a unique space where Chinese can disseminate information and express opinions and views with considerable freedom. That’s why weibo has been so successful since its launching in 2009. According to the latest statistics published by China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) in July 2011, among the 485 million Chinese internet users, 195 million were on weibo. Now the government is tightening its grip on this relatively free space, and Chinese are not hesitant to condemn the authoritarian government this time, hoping this will not be the last time they can do it.
A microblogger cites from George Orwell’s 1984, “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU,” and another virtually shouts out, “Democracy??? Freedom??? Where??? ”
“Our country is really highly civilized. Are we going back to the time of North Korea?” a Sina Weibo user writes sarcastically.
Many comments are bold and humorous:
“I thought of the Culture Revolution, and thought crimes…”
“Now I’ll just be a real onlooker.”
“Everybody dies, and some die of identity verification…”
“To block people’s mouths is more difficult than to block a river.”
Some people threaten to “climb over the wall,” meaning to use proxy servers to get around the Great Firewall the Chinese government put in to control online information. However, it seems that using web proxies really won’t really help if one wants to use weibo without identity verification, although users in China can switch to Twitter through proxies, which is banned in China.
Another way to get around this is to switch to another service that doesn’t require identity verification, such as google+, as suggested by some people, but if the government can require weibo service providers to verify the identities of their users, it can require any service provider to do so, if it comes to it.
To appease its users, Sina Weibo offers free accident insurance to 20 thousand existing users a day who verify their identities, but many users don’t buy it.
“There’re risks involved in identity verification, so they offer you free accident insurance,” a user jokes about Sina’s incentive.
“People around you will start to disappear now! Ping’an Insurance is going to make a lot of money now!” another writes. Ping’an is a big insurance company in China.
Of course, some people are more concerned about the security of their privacy than freedom of speech:
“I’d say, we should first talk about how our private information is not going to be leaked, and then we can talk about identity verification,” a microblogger writes.
“I just verified my information, and immediate regret it. Who’s going to be responsible if my information is leaked?” another writes.
Most people are still waiting to see where this is going. “Take this last chance to post as much as you can,” a microblogger writes, “tomorrow you won’t be able to even if you want .”