China To Require Real-Name Registration For Online Services And Bans On Parody Accounts

from the boring-but-not-necessarily-effective dept

China has been trying for some time to clamp down on the Internet, in an attempt to prevent it from being used in ways that threaten the authorities’ control. Since the appointment of China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, the situation has deteriorated — China Digital Times speaks of the “new normal” of sharpened control. Here’s yet another move to that end, as reported by Reuters:

China will ban from March 1 internet accounts that impersonate people or organizations, and enforce the requirement that people use real names when registering accounts online, its internet watchdog said on Wednesday.

The ban on parody accounts might seem strange, but is likely to have quite an impact on China’s online culture:

The ban on impersonations includes accounts that purport to be government bodies, such as China’s anti-corruption agency and news organizations like the People’s Daily state newspaper, as well as accounts that impersonate foreign leaders, such as U.S. President Barack Obama and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said on its website.

Many users of social media create parody accounts of prominent figures and institutions to poke fun at them.

However, once users have registered their real names, they will be permitted to use nicknames, as the new regulation explains:

Internet information service providers shall, according to the principle of “real name backstage, voluntary choice front stage?, demand Internet information service users to register accounts after undergoing real identity information authentication.

Internet information service users shall, when registering accounts, conclude an agreement with the Internet information service provider, and commit to respect the seven baselines of laws and regulations, the Socialist system, the national interest, citizens’ lawful rights and interest, the public order, social moral customs and the veracity of information.

That comes from China Copyright and Media’s complete translation of the new CAC regulation. Here are the rather stringent rules that apply when choosing an online nickname:

The Internet user account name registered and used by any body or individual may not contain the following elements:

(1) content violating the provisions of the Constitution, laws or regulations;

(2) content violating national security, leaking State secrets, subverting the national regime, or destroying national unity;

(3) content harming the honour and interests of the State, or harming the public interest;

(4) content inciting ethnic hatred or ethnic discrimination, or destroying ethnic unity;

(5) content destroying State religious policies, propagating heresy or feudal superstition;

(6) content disseminating rumours, disrupting social order, or destroying social stability;

(7) content disseminating obscenity, sex, gambling, violence, murder, terror or instigating crime;

(8) content defaming or slandering others, or infringing others? lawful rights and interests;

(9) other content prohibited by laws and administrative regulations.

That’s obviously a pretty comprehensive list, and might suggest that the Chinese Internet is doomed to become totally boring — and completely censored. That may be the authorities’ intention, but it’s worth bearing in mind that this is not the first time that the Chinese government has attempted to impose real-name registration online.

A fascinating series of five articles on the Fei Chang Dao site details how similar campaigns to tame the online world have been introduced many times since 2003, evidently without much success. Although the current crackdown on Internet freedom certainly appears more serious than earlier ones, it remains to be seen whether the Chinese authorities manage to impose real-name registration on all services, or whether this will turn out to be just the latest in a long string of failures.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “China To Require Real-Name Registration For Online Services And Bans On Parody Accounts”

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Ninja (profile) says:

it remains to be seen whether the Chinese authorities manage to impose real-name registration on all services, or whether this will turn out to be just the latest in a long string of failures

The Wester countries know all the censorship and the Human Rights violations in China and yet they still do business with them. Because they are not that different from China even with all those empty ‘high ground’ talks. And money speaks louder than Human Rights it seems.

Anonymous Coward says:

isn’t it strange how the Western World has condemned China for years for the inhuman practices and restrictions it has employed in real life, as it were and how it extended those restrictions to encompass the Internet as well. isn’t it even more troubling about how those same Western World countries, mainly democratic countries, are doing the same and often worse, than happens in China! then you have the audacity of those same Western World countries still, constantly, condemning China for the way it acts, with virtually no human rights or protections at all! how bloody hypocritical can you get?

worse than this, i hear you say!!

Anonymous Coward says:

another intentional or just as stupid unintentional criteria for censoring in the making, banning a site, because what do you think an entity with this view is gonna do when they come across an anon site that refuses……….their all systematically destroying the internet as it was one bit at a time…….and all i can think is, who the hell do they think they are

Anonymous Coward says:

How long before we just have corporate internet, with a pittiful amount of websites/services that are in proportion to what can be monitored completely, no more variety, no more inovation risks , no more sharing anything unless theres profit, complete and utter non consentual imperilistic surveillance stalking……..ff sakes, its like their a pollution on the internet, and their expecting us to say thanks, ……….will i fuck

Anonymous Coward says:

Just like many tools, it can be used for good or bad depending on the user, the internet is the same, you cant chip away the bad bits because there are no bad bits, or good bits, its a tool, it is solelly dependant on the user…… destroy something misguided folks use, you also destroy something fortunate balanced folks use, their not seperate things, THEIR THE SAME THINGS……..its how their used thats different………..our respective empires either dont want folks to know that, or are ignorant of it……….and so basically to go after unbalanced folks they go for everyone……..and if they go for EVERYONE, it ends up being THEY that makes the them or us situation……..which is when they’ll abuse the “legal” authority dealling with the justified opposition they created in the first place………its a bloody vicious circle, and they are either trully bloody or so stubborn or dellusioned that their unwilling to take responsibility in their part in what i fear may come

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

and they are either trully bloody or so stubborn or dellusioned that their unwilling to take responsibility in their part in what i fear may come

or desperate to hang onto power, knowing that their citizens would replace them if they had a chance. Thet therefore try to prevent the same citizens getting organized to do so. This what they want real names, so that they can identify and act against anybody who even hints at replacing them.

Anonymous Coward says:

As the public is increasingly driven away from current communications systems, they will flock to anonymous, decentralized communications systems. Due to the open-source nature of darknet software, increased popularity and demand will result in increased security, further weakening governments’ ability to censor speech of all types.

This, sadly, will result in some extremely deplorable speech being protected. Child pornography is the obvious example to trot out. However, the overcensoring governments are the ones truly to blame for this; treating parody with the same severity as child pornography has the obvious result of child pornography receiving the same protection as parody.

If those governments later decide they “must do something!” about child pornography, they should start by wielding censorship as a scalpel instead of as a chainsaw. (Another good idea would be to track down and arrest child pornographers instead of simply chasing them out of a single communications medium, but I suppose I should only ask for one miracle at a time.)

Matthew A. Sawtell (profile) says:

Let's not kid ourselves...

… folks like Bush and Obama have more than share of wet-dreams on ideas like this. However, there is one major difference between places like China and the U.S., the degree of power with the ‘common folk’ (let the debate begin) vs. none at all. But to keep that degree of power, there will be an eternal due diligence.

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