Saturday, December 29, 2012

China tightens controls on Internet use, institutes real-name registration law

As expected, China has passed a law requiring real-name registration for use of the Internet. With that, the world's largest population of Internet users, both mobile and wired, are now required to identify themselves when signing up for Internet and phone services.

As you might expect, real-name registration is typically used, but dissidents, of course, would likely avoid that. The decision, approved on Friday by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress as an "identity management policy," makes it law, though.

Zhang Zhi’an, an adjunct professor at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, said:
Anti-corruption campaigns online have deeply tarnished the party and the government’s image, and social media discussions have increased instability in certain regions. Enforcing real name registration will make web users more cautious when posting comments online.
As you might think, the government is well aware of that "problem." Li Fei, deputy director of the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the Standing Committee, acknowledged that the public is concerned that the measure could "hamper the exposure of corruption cases online, public criticism lodged on the Internet, and the supervisory role of the Internet."

But Li dismissed such concerns, however, claiming that "identity management work can be conducted backstage, allowing users to use different names when posting material publicly." It's something the government asserted earlier, when reports of the impending change arose.

As part of the new law, Chinese service providers will now have to remove any Internet pages or other online information considered "illegal," and well as turning that information over to the authorities. The new regulation also encourages the public to report any such illegal online information.

The policy is vague in that respect, as it doesn't explain what is or is not considered illegal. That being said, the government insists the law is in the best interests of its citizens, saying that the decision will "protect digital information that could be used to determine the identity of a user or that which concerns a user's privacy," according to the official Xinhua news agency.

China has a population of 1.3 billion people, with 550 million Internet users as the end of September, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Earlier this month, it said it had reached 1.104 billion mobile users.

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