China Forcing News Sites to ID Commenters

By  |  Monday, September 7, 2009 at 11:52 am

News sites in China are now being required to obtain the true identities of their commenters, likely in an attempt to suppress and deter so-called “subversive” behavior. Previously, commenters had been offered a bit more anonymity where they could either post without registering at all or with much less personal information.

The new policy took effect last month and requires a real name and government issued identification number. This would positively identify every commenter on top of their already traceable IP address.

It appears from news reports that the government has tried to keep its involvement in the change under wraps, working to suppress reports on the matter in the media. It has worked for much of this decade on bringing a “real name” system to the Chinese Internet, and those in China say this is likely just the beginning.

There’s also another reason why the government didn’t want this publicized: it is unpopular and previous attempts have gotten a lot of blowback. China tried in 2006 to implement the policy on blogs, but after prominent bloggers in the country came out against the new policy and the public also overwhelmingly opposed it, the country backed off.

Local officials tried it too: Hangzhou officials wanted a similar policy for all who post on sites in the city earlier this year, however again public criticism killed the government’s plans.

It is certainly disappointing to see China once again working to curtail their citizens rights. The “subversion” tactic is something they use frequently: in most cases it’s an excuse to prevent free speech. Truly, there isn’t much that can be said that could truly disrupt the country.

What they’re paranoid of is the fact that there is a large portion of their population that wants freedom of speech and to be able to speak out. What China’s learning now is that in the digital age, that’s going to be much harder than ever to control.

(Cross posted from TechPolitik)

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