The Chinese government will now require its citizens to use their real names on social networks.

New users of Sina Weibo, the country’s counter to Twitter, must now verify their names via text message, and existing users will have to do the same within three months or “lose the ability to post messages,” reported iChinaStock.

“Microblogging is a new medium that can spread information rapidly and have a big influence,” said Wang Chen, minister of the State Council Information Office, in a Guardian interview. “It covers a wide population and can mobilize people.”

The Chinese government first started rolling out the new law about a month ago in Beijing where residents have used Sina Weibo to criticize the government over pollution issues and a train accident that killed 37 people in July. The new regulations would affect Weibo users in other cities, according to Chen.

Sina Weibo has 250 million users. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are blocked in China under Internet censorship laws.

Photo by Hal Dick