COVID-19 Special Coverage
China looks to increase Internet regulation, decrease anonymity
China looks to increase Internet regulation, decrease anonymity
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[JURIST] Chinese Internet regulators have plans to drastically reduce internet anonymity by requiring users to use their real names when posting on certain Chinese websites, according to documents [text] released Tuesday by New York-based human rights group Human Rights in China (HRIC) [advocacy website]. The documents contain various versions of an April 29 speech to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress by Wang Chen [official profile, in Chinese], Director of the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China and Deputy Director of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China [official websites, in Chinese]. The HRIC website provides two different texts of the speech, the original posted May 4 and an abridged version [text] posted the next day, from which all mention of the identity disclosure requirements was removed [text comparison] before the speech was apparently removed from the SCIO speech archive [official website] altogether. Much of the excised material details the Chinese government’s past efforts and future plans to constrict the flow of dissenting and overseas information and use the Internet to spread pro-state propaganda. In one section, Wang lays out new plans to “strengthen [China’s] supervision” of Internet content by curbing opportunities for anonymous discussion:

We are implementing … a permission and examination and approval system to handle online information services involving ideological security and public interests. We are also establishing a robust series of management procedures … to handle harmful information and prevent the infiltration of harmful information from overseas … On major news websites and key commercial websites, we are implementing a system to require real-name identification of forum moderators and a function that successfully removes “anonymous comments” on news stories. We are also exploring an identity authentication system for users of online bulletin boards.

HRIC’s revelation comes on the heels of a June announcement that Google will continue to operate its Internet search engine in mainland China, ending a four-month period during which the site simply redirected to the uncensored [search websites; JURIST report] after the company threatened in January to pull out of China entirely [JURIST report]. Earlier last month, the Chinese government defended [JURIST report] its Internet censorship laws in a report [materials] on Internet usage in the country. In February, the government announced new regulations [JURIST report] further restricting Internet use by requiring Chinese citizens to submit identity cards and meet with regulars before registering a website, prompting many to register sites overseas to avoid regulation.