Chinese regulators have now asked various social media platforms to require influencers to reveal their real names once they reach the 500,000 follower threshold. According to Reuters, the move was aimed at "purifying" China's ever-growing cyberspace.
Weibo, one of the most popular social media platforms in China with over 258 million registered users by the second of this year according to Statista, said that they will start off with setting the threshold to 1,000,000 followers before eventually transitioning to the 500,000.
- It is worth noting that the anonymity removal will only apply to influencers doing content primarily on professional fields such as social and current affairs, military, finance, law, and medical topics. Weibo has also clarified that typical users and influencers who only share their personal lives are not affected by it.
- Weibo also stated that users who are not logged in the site, and have not passed in-site authentication measures, as well as those whose accounts have been suspended would not be able to view the real names of the registered influencers.
Bilibili, one of most well-used video platforms in China, has also announced a similar set of regulations, adding that if an influencer refuses to add their real name in their profile, certain restrictions will be placed including account traffic and amount of income by the influencer.
Other social media platforms that have already implemented similar measures include Douyin, WeChat, Baidu, Xiaohongshu, among others.
Industry leaders told the South China Morning Post that the recent move by the Chinese government would be helpful in terms of strengthening community regulation and governance for these platforms, albeit at the cost of the influencers.
The new online regulations mirror the recent mandates by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) back in July regarding zimeiti or "self media" entities which publish news and information, but are not government-run or affiliated with official media.
According to the CAC back then, the 13-point rule mandate say that accurate sources must be used to provide news on domestic and international affairs, public policies and social events; and that fabricated stories or rumors must be marked out; and accounts must manage follower growth.
It is unclear how this new regulation will play out towards VTubers and other virtual influencers, considering the fact that Chinese regulators have also implemented regulations to so-called 'digital humans' in order to improve development and research on ‘digital humans’, as well as make them more ‘human-like’.
VTubers in China could rest easy for now as they won't be affected by the new mandates, given that these only apply to those who are broadcasting news and factual information without direct control by state media.