China continues its online clampdown after ordering the registration of real names on microblog sites
Chinese censorship of the Internet continues after it emerged that Beijing city authorities have ordered Internet microblogs registered in the Chinese capital city, to require their users to register their real names.
This latest move signals a tightening of the rules governing the increasingly popular microblogs. Chinese authorities are understood to be concerned about the ability of these microblogs to rapidly disseminate news.
The new rules were announced by the Beijing government, the police and the Internet management office. They have now insisted that users of these microblogging sites, listed in the Chinese capital, have to register their real names or face possible legal consequences, Reuters quoted state media as saying. Users apparently have three months to register their real names.
China has repeatedly criticised microblogs for spreading unfounded “rumours and vulgarities”, according to Reuters, and has issued a number of warnings that online content must be acceptable to the ruling Communist Party. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and even Skype are of course blocked in China by its so called “Great Firewall of China”.
The microblogging Website Sina Weibo was cited as an example for the new rules. This Chinese micoblogging site has an estimated 250 million users and acts pretty much like Twitter, as it allow users to issue short messages of opinion – a maximum of 140 Chinese characters – that can run through chains of followers who receive messages instantly.
This rapid disseminatation of content is reportedly causing a problem for the Chinese censors who have a hard time monitoring the millions of daily messages. They are not helped as Chinese users are reportedly adopting nuanced language to discuss sensitive topics, such as human rights.
There is some doubt whether getting users to register their real names will help.
“Real name registration is sadly predictable, but very hard to implement or, if implemented, is futile anyway as users will just shift to other platforms,” Duncan Clark, managing director of BDA China, a Beijing research firm was quoted as saying to the Associated Press.
China’s Internet censorship is a well known issue and is the source of frequent irritation for many western firms. Chinese firms, however, tend to co-operate in the censorship campaign.
Only last month, the Chinese government secured the agreement of major Chinese businesses, including search engine firm Baidu and e-commerce giant Alibaba, to increase their own censorship actions.
The Chinese government also recently defended its right to censor the Internet, in response to American pressure to explain the online censorship of US firms operating in that region. It said the censorship was necessary to “safeguard the public”.
In July, a Chinese think tank (The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) revealed that the number of Websites in China had nearly halved since 2009. It said there had been a 41 percent drop to 1.91 million sites on the Chinese mainland between the end of 2009 and the end of 2010, thanks to the Chinese firewall.
Last January, the government boasted that its Great Firewall had deleted 350 million pieces of “harmful information” as part of its 2010 campaign to clean up the Web by shutting down or blocking what it judged to be subversive sites.