China tightens the screws on Internet users

The country will now require all citizens to use their real names when signing up for an Internet account and force Internet providers to delete posts deemed "illegal."

The Chinese government is once again imposing new restrictions on Internet use.

A decision approved today by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress institutes an "identity management policy," according to China's official Xinhua news agency. Such a policy requires Internet users to use their real names when registering with an online provider or mobile carrier.

Though most Chinese Internet users already use their real names to sign up for online accounts, the new policy makes it the law.

Li Fei, deputy director of the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the Standing Committee, did acknowledge public concerns that the measure could "hamper the exposure of corruption cases online, public criticism lodged on the Internet, and the supervisory role of the Internet," Xinhua said.

Several cases of public corruption in China have been unveiled on the Internet. The new policy could make it easier to track down citizens who expose such cases online.

But Li dismissed such concerns as "unnecessary" claiming that "identity management work can be conducted backstage, allowing users to use different names when posting material publicly."

Further, Chinese service providers will now have to remove any Internet pages or other online information considered "illega," and then turn that information over to the authorities. The authorities then have the legal right to halt publication and to punish those who posted the illegal information.

The decision also asks the the public to report any such illegal online information to the authorities.

The policy doesn't quite explain what information is considered illegal. But the Chinese government insists the law works in the best interests of its citizens, saying that the decision will "protect digital information that could be used to determine the identity of a user or that which concerns a user's privacy," according to Xinhua.

Further, the decision prevents service providers and government agencies from leaking the digital information of Internet users, and from selling or providing this information to others, Xinhua said.

But Li also added a warning in today's press conference, according to Reuters.

"When people exercise their rights, including the right to use the Internet, they must do so in accordance with the law and constitution, and not harm the legal rights of the state, society... or other citizens," Li said.

 

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