Internet anonymous? Sorry! Not anymore...

pollylee

02 May 2012

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Not surprisingly, China has the one of the biggest online communities in the world. Nowadays, some 300 million Chinese people use Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, seen as a key resource of news, forum and debate. Users can easily register an account on Weibo, posting their opinions and joining online discussion. It is almost certain that the opening discussion on Chinese microblog websites is a noticeable improvement for freedom of speech in China.

When people give a clap for improving freedom of information in China, the authorities seem to change their mind.

Millions of Weibo microblog users in China are now facing new rules. In order to prevent so-called rumours on the site, users in the capital, Beijing, now have to register with their real identities to post online. The other major cities are expected to follow soon.

Want to talk about controversial issues online? Yes, you can, says the government! Just tell us who you are first.

The Chinese government has a system to blacklist certain search engines, websites and keywords, which is known as the Great Firewall. The Communist Party stops people visiting some sites outside China, returns no results for searches of banned terms, censors chat and vets blogs. In other words, Chinese authorities control web access for external resources. For example, internet users inside of China are unable to see websites such as BBC Chinese, Facebook and some other sites mentioning human rights.

Internally, registering real identity online has become an obligation for Chinese Webio users. It can be seen as another crackdown on freedom of speech in China. The government might argue that microblog websites are not shut down, and users can still “enjoy” internet access freely. However, since users will be identified by the authority, there is a very high possibility that they might start to self-censor, avoiding creating sensitive online discussion. That is to say, lacking of anonymity on microblog websites is another scheme for the Chinese authority to put their censorship power in full swing. 

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