Ah, yes, the time honored argument about whether or not people should use their real names on the Internet. While the common use of pseudonyms can indirectly give bullies and harassers freedom from accountability, requiring people to identify themselves can have a chilling effect on those who use them as shields against harassment, and especially political persecution. On an unrelated note, guess which side the argument of China is on?
Of course, China’s opposition to fake Internet names is not so bald-faced as “we want our people to stop criticizing us”; the government is reportedly hoping to crack down on the amount of people online who impersonate celebrities, “including foreign heads of state” such as Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, according to the regulator who passed down the mandate today.
To combat this, they’ll soon be requiring tougher name restrictions from the social media network Weibo, forums, instant messaging services, comments sections, blogs, and other discussion-driven websites in China—basically, everything but email accounts. Commenters will still be allowed to choose screen names and profile pictures for themselves, but these will also be more tightly regulated to weed out “unacceptable” names, which will also be linked to their real names upon registration. Oh, and it will apply retroactively to already existing accounts. Geez, and we complain about having to change our passwords once a year in this part of the world.
Given that China’s government have been ramping up their media censorship lately and have already had previously run-ins with wordplay, fanfiction writers, Internet slang, and imported television shows, this probably not a good thing for the country’s Internet users, particularly their sillier more-fandom inclined ones. The regulations are set to go into effect next month, so I guess enjoy your anonymity for now, “TotallyPrezObama82.”
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org