China has significantly tightened its rules governing Internet usage.
Under the new regulations, Internet users are still able to use pseudonyms when posting online but only if they first provide their real names to service providers.
The new rules are part of a package of measures the state-run Xinhua news agency insists will “ensure internet information security, safeguard the lawful rights and interests pf citizens … and safeguard national security,” the BBC reports.
However, many believe the result of the government censors’ tightening of restrictions on China’s international Internet traffic will make it harder for businesses to protect commercial secrets and for individuals to view overseas websites.
According to The New York Times, the ruling Chinese Communist Party regularly blocks sensitive stories through the use of what is known as the “Great Firewall of China.” Users are often detained, and in some cases, jailed if their Internet use is deemed as dangerous or counter to the party’s aims.
Mass protests organized with social media forced the government to shut down environmentally-questionable projects in Shifang and Qidong. Yang Daca, was fired after an internet campaign exposed his penchant for expensive watches and people wondered how he could afford it on a provincial official’s salary. District level party chief Lei Zhengfu was sacked after a sex-tape of him with an 18-year-old girl showed up online, said the BBC.
Interestingly, analysts say Beijing’s attempts are unlikely to succeed as a fail-safe method of guaranteeing the identity of China’s 500 million plus Internet users, the Financial Times notes.
Liu Qibao, the new “czar” at the helm of the new regulations, is known for his hard line approach to media control. He recently called for “more research on how to strengthen the construction, operation and management of the Internet and promote mainstream online themes,” the BBC reports.
One public voice of dissent to the new measures comes from China’s biggest Internet firm, Sina Corp. Earlier this year, Sina said that the government’s plans would “severely reduce” traffic to its massive micro-blogging site Weibo — China’s answer to Twitter.
The new rules require network service providers to “instantly stop the transmission of illegal information once it is spotted,” and that findings are then reported to “supervisory authorities” before posts are deleted.
Despite the Chinese government declaring its openness to the exposure of public abuses, the reality is that the regime may feel threatened by politicized bloggers and unregulated voices, the BBC notes.