BEIJING, Jan. 18 (UPI) — China says it is expanding a program requiring people to disclose their real identities to authorities before posting comments on popular blogging services.
Wang Chen, the government’s top Internet regulator, said Wednesday registration trials in five major eastern Chinese cities would continue but eventually all 250 million Chinese users of microblogs, known as “weibos” in China, would have to register, The New York Times reported.
Under the program, users could continue to employ nicknames online, Wang said, but only after they registered their true identities with authorities.
Free-speech advocates have been critical of the program, saying it would choke off the microblogs’ freewheeling debate and frequent criticism of official misconduct.
Chinese microblogs have grown explosively, quadrupling the number of users in the last year.
“Weibos can indeed reflect people’s opinion and spread positive voices and enrich information services,” Wang said. “But they have also made it easy for some irrational voices and negative opinions and harmful information to spread quickly.”
Wang, who leads the State Council Information Office which regulates the Internet, is also is a deputy director of the Communist Party’s propaganda department.