Chinese social media users have been debating new rules requiring internet platforms to verify a user’s true identity before letting them post online content.
The new rules were issued on 25 August by the Cyberspace Administration of China.
They will take effect on 1 October.
China already has laws requiring firms to run identity checks on net users, but the new guidelines may require identity cards to be scanned online.
Curbing rumour, free speech
Some internet users welcomed the new rules as a way to combat rumours and fraudsters.
“It’s a real-name system that will protect user privacy and eliminate a number of people and businesses with no sense of social responsibility,” said a user in Guangdong Province.
One user described the move as representing a “keyboard warriors’ doomsday”.
Many internet users also voiced concerns about privacy or falling foul of the authorities.
“There are two sides to it,” said one user in Sichuan Province
“There will be fewer rumours, but public speech will also be monitored by the government. Who knows if there will only be one voice in the future?”
Another user – nicknamed mnbxkd, from Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province – wrote: “After commenting on the government, one will be thrown into prison on charges of subversion of state power.
And a user in Chongqing posted: “This will lead to a lot of people not daring to speak the truth because they risk being invited to tea if they tell the truth!… Should we not talk about affairs of state?”
Being “invited to tea” is internet slang for receiving a visit from law-enforcement officials.
“In fact, nobody is worried about a real-name system, but they are worried about a series of problems caused by the real-name system: how to ensure that the personal information of internet users will not be compromised, sold or found by human flesh searches?” commented another user in Chongqing.
“Human flesh search” is online slang for social media users working together online to find out information about individuals.
“If large and small websites can all have access to information on the identity of internet users, isn’t this dangerous? I think the state should establish a unified identity authentication interface for internet users,” said a user in Zhongshan, Guangdong Province.
Other web users also criticised the new rules as oppressive meddling by the state.
“Has your property been made public yet? How do you have the gall to ask us to register real names?” asked a Chinese user in the UK, referring to the disclosure of assets by officials.
“They must control everything, but they don’t care whether ordinary people can afford a home or afford to eat,” said a user in Guangzhou, Guangdong.
“It’s as though we’ve gone back 50 years!” said a user in Anhui Province.