On the 20th of October, Chinese netizens discovered that ‘来去之间’ (Amid Comings and Goings), the account of Wang Gaofei, CEO of Weibo Corporation, has some extra information. Wang’s real name along with his occupation are now available to view on his Weibo profile page.
The display marks the trial stage of the platform’s reported new front-end real-name policy. Since last week, several influencers have posted about being notified of the policy to show real name and occupation on profiles. Wang then clarified on the 16th that Weibo is indeed planning to roll out this adjustment.
The policy currently targets influencers with over 1 million followers and is set to later expand to those with 500,000 followers. The policy will affect influencers and bloggers in the fields of politics, finance and entertainment.
Weibo has required real identities of its users since 2012, but has never required users to display them. Last year, the platform started showing the IP locations of all accounts when posting comments. Then in July this year, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) released a ‘notice’ on further regulating ‘self-media’, or influencers, to crackdown on rumours and controversial discourse.
State media such as the Global Times claim the new rule would ‘deter those who attempt to maneuver the public opinion’ and help ‘create a clean and healthy cyberspace’. Others are concerned that this display will not only allow authorities to more easily crack down on groups such as #metoo, feminists and LGBTQ+, but also create deterrence for controversial opinions.