Starting March 1st, anonymous accounts will no longer be permitted on many Chinese web services. The Cyberspace Administration of China set the policy today in a statement on the China Communication Network, which said the policy was aimed at wiping out the "username chaos" that allowed users to masquerade as world leaders or counterfeit news organizations. The central government had long advocated for the restrictions, but Chinese companies had resisted it as too much of a technical burden. The new regulations will still allow users to choose their own username and photo, but require them to register an actual name with the service in order to prevent active deception. No specific services were named, but the policy is expected to have a major impact on the China-based messaging app WeChat and many similar companies based in China.
Chinese companies already face severe restrictions against any content banned by the central government, but these regulations suggest an unprecedented interest maintaining strict identity controls online and stamping out the casual anonymity that defines US social networks like Twitter and Tumblr. Enforcement of the policy has been left to companies, so it's unclear what the final result will look like. Sina Weibo, a Chinese micro-blogging service similar to Twitter, has already adopted real-name registration at the urging of the central government, but many similar companies had resisted the measure.