Real Names Only On China Internet
December 29, 2012

Chinese Internet Users Will Be Forced To Use Real Names

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

A new law passed by the Chinese government on Friday will require residents to register their names when signing up for Internet and telephone services, a move experts claim will strengthen the Beijing Communist Party regime's control over the nation's 550 million web users.

The new regulations were ratified by the Standing Committee of the National People´s Congress and will require individuals to provide their real names when they register for Internet, landline telephone or mobile phone services, various media outlets have reported.

Furthermore, they must give their real names to service providers before they will be allowed to post information publicly on the Web, and the law will block access to gambling websites, websites with pornographic content, and those that contain content critical of the country's government, according to Bloomberg News reports.

"The rules may give the party greater control over mobile phone users, as well as microblogs and websites that have become platforms for people to air dissent, rumor and claims of corruption not tolerated in print media," they added. "The party´s image was damaged after online activists exposed officials who maintained extramarital affairs, snapped up property and luxury items and covered up allegations of wrongdoing by family members."

While government officials claim the law will strengthen privacy and personal information safeguards, it is also likely to limit Web users' ability to post their anti-Communist gripes and grievances on websites, on message boards, or on social networks, reports Joe McDonald of the Associated Press.

"This is needed for the healthy development of the Internet," Li Fei, deputy director of the legislature's Legal Work Committee, told reporters at a news conference, according to the AP. Li denied it would limit the public's ability to use the Internet to expose their displeasure with the government's conduct, noting "the country's constitution protects citizens' rights in supervising and criticizing the state and government officials' behavior."

Murong Xuecun, a Chinese writer and an outspoken critic of censorship, isn't buying the official line. He told McDonald the government's intention "is very clear: It is to take back that bit of space for public opinion, that freedom of speech hundreds of millions of Chinese Internet users have strived for."

"Anti-corruption campaigns online have deeply tarnished the party and the government´s image, and social media discussions have increased instability in certain regions," added Zhang Zhi´an, an adjunct professor at Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University, in an interview with Bloomberg. "Enforcing real name registration will make web users more cautious when posting comments online."

The new regulations also legalize the deletion of posts or entire Web pages found to contain "illegal" material, and also requires ISPs to hand over the information of anyone found violating these content laws to national authorities for punishment, Sky News noted on Friday.

"The move signals that the new leadership headed by Communist Party chief Xi Jinping will continue to muzzle the often scathing online chatter in a country where the internet offers a rare opportunity for debate," they added.