China on Friday adopted a regulation requiring the nation’s 500 million internet users to register their real names, the latest move from the ruling Communist Party to control online activity.
Real—name registration will curtail the Web’s status as a freewheeling forum to complain, often anonymously, about corruption and official abuses. The country’s legislature approved the Internet measures at a closing meeting of a five-day session.
The measure would require network service providers to ask users to provide their real names and other identifying information to allow users to post information publicly or when signing agreements for access to the Internet, fixed telephone lines or mobile phones, Xinhua said.
Beijing promotes Internet use for business and education but bans material deemed subversive or obscene and blocks access to many websites.
The main ruling party newspaper, People’s Daily, has called in recent weeks for tighter Internet controls, saying rumours spread online have harmed the public. In one case, it said stories about a chemical plant explosion resulted in the deaths of four people in a car accident as they fled the area.
Until recently, Web surfers could post comments online or on microblog services without leaving their names, giving ordinary Chinese a unique opportunity to express themselves to a public audience in a society where newspapers, television and other media are state-controlled.
But the government says the latest regulation is aimed at protecting Web surfers’ personal information and cracking down on abuses such as junk email.
The measure will “ensure Internet information security, safeguard the lawful rights and interests of citizens, legal entities or other organizations and safeguard national security and social public interests,” the regulation stated.
China’s estimated number of internet users has mushroomed to more than 500 million, or about 40 per cent of the population.