Why is Ai Weiwei asking folks to tweet out their real names? It may not seem like that big a deal in the West, where we’re encouraged to “brand” ourselves online. But in mainland China, Twitter usage is banned.
And there are other concerns with using your real name on Twitter. According to Thomas Crampton, Asia-Pacific director of Digital Influence at Ogilvy:
Chinese generally prefer semi-anonymous platforms like bulletin boards over blogs. This is due both to concerns about the government keeping tabs on who is saying what, but also due to a preference for staying a below the radar when making comments.
In short, sharing your name and location on Twitter, then, means the government can link everything you’ve tweeted back to you. “Brave you,” said Mr. Ai, in response to one Twitterer.
He received such an overwhelming response (which he retweeted and responded to), that his Twitter account was suspended four times due to limits on the maximum number of tweets one can make in a period of time. Perhaps that’s why one Twitter user noted that “Today is definitely a day to commemorate for the Chinese Twitter circle” — many Chinese Twitter users were putting their identities out there for perhaps the first time.
What do you think of Ai Weiwei’s “Say out your name” activity? Do you have other resources about how Chinese nationals use Twitter from behind the Great Firewall?