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China orders its citizens to identify themselves when leaving online comments


Authorities in China have imposed a new law which requires its citizens to register and identify themselves online in order to leave comments on websites and internet services.

China’s “cyberspace administration” said in rules published Friday that internet forum providers had to force their users to register using their real names, which they must verify, reports The Diplomat. The web companies must also immediately report illegal comments to the authorities, and pre-screen comments on current affairs.

Illegal comments include those that spread rumors, potentially disrupt social order, leak secrets, damage China’s national honor, incite hatred, undermine the state’s policies about religion, and insult people.

The new laws will come into effect at the start of October. This is the latest move in a long-running and not entirely successful campaign to introduce real-name registration across China’s internet services. However, while the government has previously only been able to get the largest services to play along, this new announcement could spell trouble for smaller service providers.

The government says it has taken this step to prevent “pornographic, false advertising, bloody violence, insults, slander, the disclosure of personal details, and other illegal information” that might pollute online content.

Two years ago, China also mandated that online platforms verify the identity of users and make sure they register with their real name.

Since this was technically impossible, most websites chose to implement a “verify by phone” account registration policy for all new accounts, as all phone numbers in China are registered to real names and tied to real-world IDs.

It is expected that Chinese online platforms implement a similar feature for all accounts that want to comment online.

Not all websites followed the strict guidelines issued by Cyberspace Administration of China two years ago, but this time around experts believe websites will be more willing to cooperate after the Chinese government has passed a law in November 2016 that granted authorities more power to shut down any site, or even the entire Internet inside China.

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