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Censorship in China

Chinese users posting comments online must register real names

From October, internet companies will have to verify the identities of users before they can post anything on their platforms

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 August, 2017, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 August, 2017, 11:11pm

Chinese internet users will have to register their real names before they can post comments online from October, the cyberspace regulator said on Friday.

The new rule is Beijing’s latest move in a campaign to tighten control of the internet after it enacted sweeping cybersecurity legislation in June.

The Cyberspace Administration of China said in a notice about the regulation that online comments had “given rise to the dissemination of false rumours, foul language and illegal information”.

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From October 1, internet and tech companies will have to verify the real identities of all registered users before they can post anything on their platforms.

This will apply to all websites, smartphone applications, interactive communication platforms and “any other communication platform that features news or with the function to mobilise society”, the notice said.

Any comments on news stories will also have to be reviewed by the website operator before they can appear online, it said, without elaborating.

Operators were also told to better manage online comments by setting up systematic ways to review content and conduct regular checks, with illegal content to be reported to supervisors.

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They will also have to strengthen monitoring of “bullet screens” or danmu – a popular feature that allows people watching videos to post real-time comments that are plastered across the screen.

The regulator said it wants platforms with a danmu function to publish a record of all real-time comments on their website.

It is not the first time the authorities have called for real-name registration to rein in online comments.

In early 2015, the Cyberspace Administration required internet users on a wide range of platforms – from blogs, microblogs and instant messaging apps to forums – to register with their real names, although it was not strictly enforced.

But the latest regulation has been issued under the new cybersecurity law. And even before the new rule was announced, some internet companies had been asking users to verify their identities.

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Popular question-and-answer website Zhihu, which is similar to Quora, asked users in June to verify accounts with their mobile phone numbers – which in China are registered under real names. Those who refused would not be able to post content, the company said.

Chinese search engine Baidu also told its users – including those using its forums and cloud storage service – to register their real identities before June.