China Says It Will Force Internet Users to Register Their Names

China is going to “thoroughly implement” a long-discussed real name registration system on the Internet in 2015, signaling the latest attempt by the authorities to further rein in the free-flowing medium that so often makes the regime the butt of its jokes.

Forcing Chinese Internet users to register their activity online through their real names will have the effect of further limiting the already confined space for speech online, analysts say. The policy was announced by the State Internet Information Office on Jan. 13, and conveyed widely to the public through state media.

The idea has been tossed around in the halls of power in China for over two years. Authorities said that requiring major Internet platforms to register the real names and identification numbers of users will prevent unspecified “Internet crimes.”

But regular Chinese see it as a much more sinister move: an attempt to limit their freedom to criticize the government online, and to stop them from spreading information and news that the regime wishes to censor.

If the authorities think you shouldn’t have said this or that, they can arrest you.
— Liu Xiaoyuan, Chinese rights lawyer

The State Internet Information Office said that initially only instant messaging platforms will implement the real name system—these include microblogs like Weibo (which is similar to Twitter), online forums, electronic bulletin boards, and a number of other websites. The office vowed to “intensify supervision, management, and enforcement” of the policy.

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