China to require real name registration for Internet users

by: J. Angelo RacomaDecember 30, 2012


This issue has been discussed before, and has been considered as an affront to the freedoms that Internet users enjoy. But this is China, and it’s a regime that’s a unique mix of forward-looking innovation and limiting restrictions. The latest issue that Chinese Internet users might need to be concerned about: real name registration.

One big issue at the recent International Telecommunications Union (ITU) conference was that restrictive governments want tighter control over Internet use and the flow of information. While that particular proposition had been nipped at the bud — thanks to Google and other big companies voicing out their side, not to mention that the U.S. does not want such regulatory moves — Internet freedom is here to stay. That is if you’re not in China.

The country, after all, is known for its so-called “Great Firewall of China,” in which access to services that can be used for dissent is blocked. There is no Facebook, Twitter nor YouTube in China, as well as several Google services, although local alternatives thrive because of this very limitation.

It’s not the same as the Internet at large, though, where everyone can have a voice without being silenced or censored. Government is planning to mandate that all Internet users register using their real names. Sina Weibo — China’s biggest microblogging service — has been doing this since earlier this year. However, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) has made a proposal that will require anyone who goes online to identify themselves with their real names on an ISP level.

It’s not all that bad, at least from the government’s perspective. The provision also plans to combat abuse, such as spam — particularly sending business-related content to email accounts and mobile phones without user consent. The provisions also give users a mechanism for reporting abuse.

Also, real name are registered with the ISP, and users can still register anonymous accounts with social networking services and microblogs. Li Fei, director of the committee’s Commission on Legislative affairs assures Chinese Internet users that the identity management “could be conducted backstage,” adding that users can still “use different names when publicizing information.”

Chinese bloggers already use code-names and coded messages when posting information online, though. But even with such anonymity, messages and posts can still be traced back to one’s real identity once registration is enforced. There is no word on when this government mandate will take effect. But one thing is for sure: with almost 600 million Internet users in the country, this would be one big task for government and ISPs to handle.

And given that a good majority of Chinese Internet users get online through mobile devices, this piece of news should also be relevant to those using smartphones and tablets.

Should Chinese Internet users worry? Going beyond regional concerns, should users elsewhere worry that their governments might soon require real-name registration before gaining access to Internet services? To some extent, users in the U.S. already do, for instance — particularly those that go online from mobile data plans with contracts or other post-paid wireline services. Should this be any different?

  • Alu Zeros

    F(&*(*& China, North Korea, North Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, Iran, Syria, S. Arabia, and all countries that can’t separate church from state, bring back manufacturing to the US, stop trading with them until they stop denying human rights. The greedy, selfish, worthless leaders that call themselves human beings should be ashamed of themselves. F(&(*& all of them.

    • Netto

      That would put a very huge and significant dent in your economy not to mention companies that might go bankrupt.

    • MasterMuffin

      I guess: You’re american?

    • RarestName

      But hey, you have to agree that no country is completely free from these imperfections.

  • Robert

    As I see the same is in the works in Thailand. A lot of places providing free wifi access (airport, malls, hospital) will give you you access only when they checked your identity by showing an ID card or passport. This will be carefully registered.

    And if you pass the threshold of the lese-majesty law, well, instant 25 years in prison.

    However, you can still get a SIM card (even with internet service) anonymously, and free and unaccounted wifi is widely available in smaller hotels and restaurants.

  • aCe manayan

    There is still a hole in this one..they might go for VPN (Virtual Private Network) by the use of this they can go rogue in the WWW.

  • strong

    I dont see this any different.
    in my country when you register for any isp (for your home or mobile internet), you’re required to show your citizen id.

    however if I want to be really anonymous, I can use internet rental kiosk that abundance in every city district. if something goes wrong they will trace back to rental owner.

  • this is great news for internet safety and security. it will also help clean up the internet a little bit.. for all those haters chatting shit about freedom and what now you’re missing the point completely.. look at how fucked up society has become in recent years.. shootings, rapes and what not.. at least this way the chinese can provide a safe and friendlier internet for its users

    • Uncertified_geek

      Practice what you preach Certified_geek. Why don’t you put your real street address after your comments too???

    • Gabriel is not my name

      You definitely do not grasp the value of posting whatever evidence or fact anonimously against an authoritarian regime. Perhaps you’re so used to it that its importance was lost to you.

      Don’t fool yourself: the chinese is not worried about security. They want to control the flow of ideas and suppress any they don’t like.

  • NetCorrection

    Wrong map – Taiwan is NOT part of China :P