China Power

China’s New Wave of Internet Censorship: Name Verification for Online Commenting

China announces new rules, forbidding unidentified netizens from posting anything on internet platforms

China’s New Wave of Internet Censorship: Name Verification for Online Commenting
Credit: Flickr/Mike MacKenzie

China’s internet censorship is getting tougher and more comprehensive every day. On August 25, China’s top internet regulator announced new rules to manage internet forums and communities, forbidding unidentified netizens from posting anything on internet platforms. The new rules will become effective on October 1.

As The Diplomat has been following, since Chinese president Xi Jinping took office, China has been systematically increasing online control, and 2017 has witnessed the most fierce wave of  internet censorship yet:  Banning VPNs and independent multimedia contents, demanding international publishing houses such as Cambridge University Press remove specific content, punishing China’s top three internet giants for failing to manage their online platform properly, to name just a few.

The Cyberspace Administration of China, the top internet censor, just gave Chinese netizens further bad news. On August 25, the administration issued “Management Regulations on Internet Forum and Community,”  in order to “promote the healthy and orderly development of online community” and “safeguard national security and public interests.”

The new regulations cover all online forums, communities and any other platforms that provide interactive communication.

According to the regulations, all internet companies and service providers are required to strictly manage all the content their registered users are going to post, and verify the identities of all users before they can post anything on their platforms. As for those users who refuse to provide their real names, the internet companies should not allow them to post anything at all.

An official of the Cyberspace Administration also specified the content that is banned from publishing or disseminating online:

The contents that (1) opposing the basic principles in the Constitution; (2) harming the national security, revealing state secrets, subverting state power and undermining national reunification; (3) damaging national honor and interests; (4) inciting national hatred, ethnic discrimination and undermining national unity; (5) undermining the state’s policies on religion or promoting cults and feudal superstitions; (6) spreading rumors or disrupting social order; (7) spreading obscenity, pornography, violence, terror or abetting the crime; (8) insulting or slandering others and infringing upon the lawful rights and interests of others; (9) violating any other laws and regulations.

Obviously, the forbidden items are so broad and vague that any criticism could be included in the categories.

In addition, the regulations also require all internet companies to fully record their users’ information and promptly report their illegal behavior to the regulators.