BEIJING, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- The popular adage, "On the Internet, nobody knows you are a dog," may not be always ring true as authorities in Beijing city have ordered real name registrations on microblogging services.
Government agencies in Beijing published new rules Friday requiring users of the country's Twitter-like microblogging services to provide their true identities when registering for microblog accounts.
According to the rules on Beijing's microblog management, which went into effect Friday, web users need to give their real names to website administrators before being allowed to put up microblog posts.
Bloggers, however, are free to choose their screen names, said a spokesman with the Beijing Internet Information Office (BIIO), the city's web content management authority.
"The new rules are aimed at protecting web users' interests and improving credibility on the web," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official said the move will help microblogging service providers enhance trustworthiness, establish name brands and improve the quality of their services.
The rules were issued jointly by the city's public security bureau, communication administration and Internet information office and the Beijing government's press office.
According to these rules, web users need to register using authentic identities when applying for microblog IDs, which will enable them to write, publish and share postings.
Web users do not have to apply for an ID to browse posts, the document said.
The new rules ban individuals and organizations from posting and duplicating illegal content, including information that leaks state secrets, damages national security and interests, and instigates ethnic resentment, discrimination or illegal rallies that disrupt social order.
Meanwhile, the rules require websites to get approval from the Internet information office to operate microblogging services in Beijing.
These websites are obligated to ensure the authenticity of their users' identities, and protect the privacy of microbloggers, it said.
Existing microblogging service providers have been asked to complete their current users' data registration within three months, it said.
"Beijing, dubbed China's 'Internet capital,' is a major city for the development of microblogging services," said Tong Liqiang, executive deputy director with the BIIO.
According to Tong, nearly 600 million microblogging IDs are registered with Beijing's seven microblogging service providers, including popular Sina Weibo and Sohu, which have 280 million and 120 million microblog users, respectively.
Tong said microblogging services have facilitated business, social exchanges, education and daily communication.
"In the meantime, the spread of rumors and fake information as well as Internet fraud on the microblog platform have harmed the interests of the public," Tong said, adding that the new regulations are based on broad surveys and various opinions.
The new rules have caught the attention of many microbloggers at Sina Weibo, China's largest microblogging site. Some said the move would be effective in curbing online rumors and fraud, while others were worried that it would stop people from voicing their complaints or grievances.
"[The regulations] came in time. Otherwise, everyone is a potential victim to fake and fraudulent information, because it is difficult to trace and punish those who slander others on the microblogs without real identities," wrote an Internet user with the screen name "rupert_zhang."
"Whether this measure can be genuinely carried out needs to be verified technically," wrote microblog user "Tingyu Shinian."
SUPPORT FROM PROVIDERS
The new rules are gaining support from microblog service providers.
"We are support the regulations," said Peng Shaobin, general manager of Sina's microblog service department.
Peng, who is also vice president of the Sina web portal, said his company has been trying hard to stop the spread of false information on microblogs.
Sina established a 10-member rumor-curbing team in November last year to monitor online messages in real-time, said Tan Chao, deputy chief of the portal's press center, who is also the team leader.
Tan said a total of 269 rumor-curbing posts had been released through his team as of Friday, and the microblog accounts of users spreading rumors or fraudulent information have been suspended or closed as punishment.
Fang Gang, vice president of Sohu, another microblog operator in Beijing, said his company would support the government's efforts to improve the Internet environment.
"There won't be more room for our website to grow unless the authenticity and trustworthiness of information are ensured," Fang said.
However, he noted that the implementation of the new rules needs government support in providing an information database.
And his website will do more technical work to ensure the security of users' private information, Fang said.
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