By Melanie Lee
SHANGHAI, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Tencent Holdings Ltd , China’s largest Internet company by revenue, has no plans to implement a real-name registration system for its QQ instant messaging product because of privacy concerns, the Southern Daily newspaper reported on Thursday, quoting the company’s chief executive.
At the Municipal People’s Congress in Nanshan District in the southern city of Shenzhen on Wednesday, Pony Ma said Tencent had considered implementing a real-name system for QQ, but had decided that the question of real-name registrations, privacy and security were mutually contradictory.
QQ is China’s largest and most popular instant messaging platform.
Faced with questions at the Municipal People’s Congress about criminal activity conducted over QQ, Ma said: “If there are people now using the telephone to conduct prostitution, is it the responsibility of telecommunications operators to change that behavior?”
Company executives like Ma are frequently invited to attend annual local legislatures in a consultative capacity.
The subject of registering users’ real names with social networking sites in China has been a touchy subject of late. Beijing insists it is necessary to prevent online rumour-mongering, but critics say it is a cover to monitor and censor views of citizens on the Internet.
The Beijing city government said in December that it would tighten control over popular microblogs that have vexed the authorities with their rapid dissemination of news, giving users three months to register their real names or face legal consequences.
The cities of Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen also announced in late December that they would require microblog operators to register users with their real names. Tencent is based in Shenzhen.
Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China, the world’s largest Internet market with 505 million users.
Local equivalents such as Sina Corp’s Twitter-like service Weibo and Renren Inc’s Facebook-like site, have filled the space for social networking sites and actively censor content deemed inappropriate.
However, not all social networks are turned off by the idea of real-name registration. Dominic Penaloza, chief executive of Ushi, a professional social network in China, said a real-name based social network would be a good thing for the industry.
“It is positive because it helps viral (marketing) growth. When people are socialising with their real names, there is generally more value than when they socialise anonymously,” Penaloza said. “You can look at Facebook, look at LinkedIn, it’s $110 billion in value in real name social networking.”