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China may make real-name registration mandatory for all its internet users

China may make real-name registration mandatory for all its internet users

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Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo has already made it a requirement that its users register with their real names, and now the Chinese government is considering a similar measure — for the internet itself. According to a report by Xinhua, the country's official press agency, a draft decision has been submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC). It proposes a new "identity management" policy, in which those that go online would need to identify themselves to their services providers, whether mobile or at their home. It also includes a number of provisions aimed at beating back abuse, such as banning the practice of sending business-related information to people's email address or phones without their consent, as well as encouraging the public as a whole to report any illegal activity.

Different online personas would be allowed

The draft decision also allows users to maintain anonymous online identities after having registered with their ISP. "Such identity management could be conducted backstage," said Li Fei, the deputy director of the Standing Committee's Commission for Legislative Affairs, "allowing users to use different names when publicizing information." Still, that doesn't seem like it would address one of the real concerns here. Bloggers in China already use codenames to avoid government censors, and a pseudo-anonymous online identity is worth very little when an ISP knows precisely who a user is thanks to a government mandate. It's not yet clear when or if the new provisions will become official — putting some real restrictions on the country's over 500 million internet users in the process.