In a significant move, China’s most popular social media platforms have announced their plans to remove anonymity for content creators with over 500,000 followers. This development comes after weeks of intense debate over personal privacy and its implications in the digital age.
In this article, we’ll delve into the details of this announcement, why it matters, and the broader context surrounding this policy shift.
The New Policy and Its Implications
At least seven major social media platforms, including Weibo, WeChat, Douyin, Kuaishou, Bilibili, Xiaohongshu, and Baidu, have issued statements calling on influencers to reveal their real identities. Weibo, for instance, has laid out plans to initially require content creators with over 1 million followers, specializing in areas like social affairs, finance, and legal matters, to post using their real names. This requirement will eventually extend to bloggers in other fields.
Influencers who refuse to disclose their real names may face limitations on their account traffic and revenue, as confirmed by Weibo and WeChat. WeChat has expressed that this policy aims to enhance the credibility of top “self-media” accounts, while Weibo sees it as a way to align influencers’ responsibilities with the impact of their words on public opinion.
Kuaishou and Douyin on this Initiative
Short video apps like Kuaishou and Douyin have also joined this initiative. Accounts with over 500,000 followers will be the first to be affected by the real-name ID disclosure requirements. However, accounts primarily focused on sharing personal daily life stories will be exempt from this rule.
The Context and Background
This move is not entirely surprising, as China has been gradually tightening its control over social media accounts managed by individuals or organizations outside of state control. Just last year, these platforms began requiring content creators and influencers with significant followings to display their real names or the names of their financial backers on their profiles.
This group of social media platforms includes WeChat, Sina Weibo, Douyin, Kuaishou, Bilibili, and Xiaohongshu. While these platforms have always required users to register with verified ID information, they had not previously mandated the public display of real names.
Weibo’s CEO, Wang Gaofei, even tested the waters by revealing his real name on his social media page last October, which he later confirmed as a test of the policy.
The aim behind this policy shift is to “enhance the credibility” of content creator accounts and “facilitate public supervision for the public interest,” as stated by WeChat. This move is seen as a step toward promoting truthful expression and providing users with better quality and reliable content.
The Impact on Influencers
With social media platforms emphasizing the importance of real-name disclosure, influencers in China, particularly those in fields like current affairs, military, finance, law, and healthcare, will need to adapt to this new requirement. The level of responsibility assigned to them is expected to align with the influence they wield in these domains.
Notably, these platforms have also introduced measures to combat cyber violence and enforce their regulations more rigorously. This includes handling complaints, issuing warnings, and even suspending accounts involved in cyberbullying or violence.
It is crucial to understand that non-compliance with these regulations could lead to restrictions on an account’s click rate and business income, signaling the seriousness with which these platforms are taking this policy.