26 December 2012, 11:18

China may require web users to register their real names

China may require web users to register their real names

The Chinese government is considering a new law requiring real-name registration for its 500 million internet users. The move is intended to better protect Internet users' privacy,  the Xinhua news agency is citing a spokesman for the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) as saying, but people are concerned that the government is stepping up censorship on the web.

The draft legislation, submitted to the Standing Committee on Monday, describes a new identity management policy requiring Internet users to identify themselves to service providers, including Internet or telecommunications operators.

“Such identity management could be conducted backstage, allowing users to use different names when publicizing information,” Li Fei, deputy director of the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the NPC Standing Committee, said on Monday.

If approved, the law will become the second major step towards more strict Internet access regulation since 2000, when the Chinese government approved the law on Web security maintenance.

Although Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo was required to introduce real-name registration earlier this year, implementation has been bogged down because of technical difficulties.

Now the government is taking it to legislation, which could have a major impact on China’s social networking services such as Weibo which supports over 400 million registered users.

While some Weibo users think it’s necessary to regulate the fast growing Internet service in China to protect personal information and avoid fraud, many worry that the move is just another way to further restrict freedom of speech.

“The law is of great significance, helping to protect the reputation of Internet users and prevent cyber crime. But there is no guarantee that it will not become an accomplice to the government in interfering with freedom of speech,” says a Weibo post of a lawyer.

“Real-name registration is not scary, but being punished for the speech online is,” is another post of a Weibo user.

Voice of Russia, Xinhua, Globalvoicesonline.org

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