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Reality bytes

Between 1769 and 1772 the polemicist Junius wrote a series of letters to a prominent English newspaper in which he lampooned the government of the time for corruption. The letters became a talking point for literary London, admired even by Samuel Johnson. But the identity of Junius has remained anonymous to this day.

Evidently Junius wouldn’t have enjoyed such luck in China. New regulations have forced users of Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-equivalent, to register their real names (and verify them against their ID cards). In effect it will no longer be possible for individuals to use Sina’s powerful microblogs in an anonymous fashion – a practice that had led to Junius-like social and political criticisms flourishing. All accounts need be ‘verified’ by March 16.

Sina’s boss Charles Chao revealed this week that the new policy is also having a negative commercial impact. The company’s weibo service – which has 300 million users – is seeing many of its existing users fail to verify their identity. In the case of new users, around 40% were not completing verification screenings properly and would not be allowed to post comments, he admitted. Analysts worry that the ‘real name’ initiative could lead to a drop in users and delay Sina’s monetisation of its microblogging platform.


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