China, no friend of the Internet to begin with, is now entertaining provisions that would further restrict free Internet use in the country by making online anonymity virtually impossible. The proposed changes involve updating the country’s “Methods for Governance of Internet Information Services” such that the definition of “Internet information service providers” includes forums and blogs of all kinds. Effectively, this outlaws the use of pseudonyms by forum users or bloggers.
According to the document, all Internet information service providers that allow users to post on the Internet must assure that said users are registering their accounts under their real, legal names. This doesn’t seem to mean that users have to display their given name at all times necessarily, but it does mean that pseudonymns will provide no protection from the government. The updated draft would also require all newly included services to obtain an administrative license in order to keep running their services.
The draft is open for public comment until July 6th, but considering China’s track record with free and open Internet, there’s little evidence to suggest this modification will be blocked. Microbloggers have reported that complying with these rules could be quite difficult, suggesting that it is possible to register under a false name. Nonetheless, the consideration of this draft marks another unfortunate blow to Internet freedom in China, and its likely adoption will mark yet another.
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