No longer does the V-for-Verified logo on a Sina Weibo blogger’s site indicate that they are the person they say they are and not an impostor. To a degree, anyone can have his or her Weibo account verified by paying some money on Taobao.com, ranging from 10 to 600 RMB.
Originally, Sina’s (NASDAQ:SINA - News) verified Weibo accounts were essentially the same as Twitter’s, displaying a ‘verified’ badge to make it easy for the public to recognize an account (mostly public figures who have a certain popularity or reputation) is the real thing. According to china.com, the previous verification process by Sina was strict and complex. Applicants should have popularity in fields such as entertainment, sports, media, politics, etc, and they also need to hand over identification and a certificate from their employers to keep on file.
For some reason, the verified accounts seem to gather followers much easier and they command a higher degree of trust from the public on Weibo. Their tweets get more comments and retweets, their opinion and recommendations initiate responses and approval. So it’s little wonder more and more bloggers on Weibo want to get a “verified badge”.
Perhaps this is why the trade on Taobao.com is so prosperous. Most online sellers promise to deliver a verified account within 24 hours after payment. And it seems they really do come through according to the praise and feedback given by buyers. Another frequently-used shortcut to get verified is with the help of Weibo insiders — if you happen to know one — who has the right to modify accounts.
If it is only for chasing vanity, then abused verifications are of little harm. However, ‘fake’ verified accounts could also be used for misleading marketing, or worse. Regardless, there seems to be no stopping them: fake verified accounts on Weibo have developed into an interesting micro-economy.