GOVERNMENT agencies in Beijing published new rules today 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 today, 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, 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.

The new rules have caught the attention of many microbloggers at Sina Weibo, China's largest microblogging site with over 200 million users. 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.

A Sina Weibo customer service representative who answered a Xinhua reporter's telephone inquiry, however, said he knew nothing of the new rules. "Real name registration? We haven't been informed yet."

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