Chinese Social Media Requires Real Names For Biggest Influencers

Beijing China Henry Chen Unsplash

China’s top six social media platforms now require influencers with more than 500,000 followers to display real names in latest crackdown

China’s six biggest social media platforms on Tuesday officially announced a new policy requiring influencers with more than 500,000 followers to display their real names in their user profiles, raising questions around privacy and the safety of their personal information.

The official announcements come after the platforms quietly began informing individual bloggers about the new rules earlier in October, according to local media reports.

Weibo influencers were told that those with more than 1 million followers would need to comply by the end of October, and those with more than 500,000 followers by the end of the year.

The platforms developed the real name policies after the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) introduced a set of rules earlier this year to bringing in closer supervision of “self media”, or accounts that publish news and information but aren’t affiliated with state or official media.

ByteDance, TikTok china
TikTok owner ByteDance. Image credit: ByteDance

Misinformation control

The rules are intended to increase accuracy in online information and mark out fabricated stories or rumours, the CAC said in the 13-point rules.

China’s social media is already heavily restricted, with users additionally barred from accessing most foreign media, including Google and Wikipedia.

Chinese authorities have also launched repeated crackdowns on self media accounts, most recently closing or penalising 920,000 accounts in a three-month period from March to May this year.

The South China Morning Post reported earlier this month that some Chinese social media accounts had begun deleting large numbers of followers in order to avoid falling under the provisions.

Identity risk

While users are required to disclose only their real names, and no further information, some told the paper they feared it would make it easier for hostile users to post more of their personal information online, known as “doxxing”.

The platforms include WeChat, Sina Weibo, video-sharing platforms Douyin (the sister site of TikTok), Kuaishou, Bilibili and Xiaohongshu, also known as Little Red Book.

Weibo chief executive Wang Gaofei said earlier in October that the policy wouldn’t be expanded to users with fewer than 500,000 followers, while Douyin said on Tuesday that only verified accounts would be allowed to view users real names.

Douyin said accounts considered “risky” or “abnormal” wouldn’t be allowed to view real names.