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Among the steps Beijing might take to rein in social media are requiring users to register accounts with their real names or imposing a time lag between when comments are posted by users and when they appear on the sites, said Mark Natkin, managing director of Marbridge Consulting, which is based in Beijing and specializes in China’s telecommunications and IT sectors.

New licensing requirements may also be imposed to weed out some companies, concentrating the business among well-established players like Sina which already have systems for expunging undesirable content, he said.

The government, however, will have to proceed cautiously, factoring in how the tens of millions of users will respond to restrictions.

“It’s not just an issue of how unhappy you might be with the change in user experience, it’s also about whether microblogging continues to provide the sort of outlet that people are looking for to express their opinions and exchange information,” Natkin said. “If that’s taken away, something that they’ve already been enjoying for quite some time now, it will feel like a big step backwards and could cause a lot of frustration.”

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Associated Press writer Charles Hutzler contributed to this report.