The Chinese authorities are set to step up their regulation of the web by forcing all users of the country's Twitter-like micro-blogging services to register using their real names.
Wang Cheng, head of the State Council Information Office, which controls internet censorship in the country, told reporters that a pilot scheme currently being run in several Chinese cities including Beijing and Shenzhen would be extended nationwide.
It is believed that, although nicknames could be used on such sites, users' real names would have to be registered in the first instance.
Although Twitter is banned in the country, home-grown services such as Sina Weibo have proved hugely popular among its citizens. There are believed to be around 300 million registered users, more than half the total number of web users in the country, which passed the 500-million mark this week.
However, the government has become increasingly wary of the free flow of information on such sites and the potential for them to be used as a platform for political or social dissent. This latest announcement could be seen as an attempt to make it easier for the authorities to target any troublemakers.
In December, two men were arrested and detained for spreading "rumours" on the web by posting a video allegedly depicting a huge police presence at a wedding in the city of Changsha, Hunan province.
The plans to crack down on micro blog users come as part of a wider effort by the Chinese government to increase censorship of the web. In November, it forced the country's top tech firms to agree to police the web more rigourously, monitoring for "rumours", online pornography and internet fraud.
Days later it issued strict new guidelines for journalists regarding the sourcing of stories in a bid to quell "false and inaccurate reports".
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