China’s most populated social media platforms on Tuesday announced they will soon remove anonymity for content creators that have over 500,000 followers, confirming rumors that stirred up heated debate over personal privacy in recent weeks.
Why it matters: The new policy will force bloggers with large fan bases to disclose their real names to the public on social media, in a change to the rules that will likely further deter discussion online in China, especially when it comes to finance news and current affairs.
Details: At least seven social platforms serving hundreds of thousands of users daily issued statements urging influencers to reveal their real identities. These included X-like platform Weibo, messaging app WeChat, video sites Douyin, Kuaishou, and Bilibili, as well as lifestyle-sharing app Xiaohongshu and search giant Baidu.
- Weibo has outlined plans to first require creators specializing in content related to social affairs, finance, and legal matters, with more than 1 million followers to post using their real names, before extending the rule to bloggers in other fields.
- Influencers who refuse to show their real names may be limited by account traffic and revenue, according to Weibo and WeChat.
- WeChat said the move will enhance the credibility of top “self-media” accounts, while Weibo said that as these influencers have a far greater impact on public opinion than ordinary users, requiring real name identification will encourage them to “take on responsibilities that align with the influence of their words.”
- In recent years, China has strengthened the management of social media accounts run by individuals or organizations independent of state-control. Many of those accounts have amassed sizable fanbases.
- Short video apps Kuaishou, and TikTok’s Chinese sibling Douyin, were among the platforms that published simultaneous statements. Accounts with over 500,000 followers will be the first affected by real-name ID disclosure requirements. Kuaishou added that accounts mainly sharing personal daily life stories will be exempt.
Context: On Oct.21, users noticed that Weibo’s CEO Wang Gaofei gave his real name on his social media page, a move later confirmed by the executive who said he had decided to first test the policy on his own account.
- A year ago, China asked that posts mentioning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine showed the location of the poster, in response to an incident in which a social media user faked his whereabouts, causing a stir in overseas media. Shortly after, the practice of displaying IP addresses was extended to individual users of Weibo and those of other social media platforms.