Chinese government’s latest crack against online anonymity

The Chinese government is dead-set on making it so that all online interactions can be tied to a specific user. The latest move towards this goal came on Friday, when the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) released an overview of the new rules that dictate that anonymous users can’t post content online.

china crack online anonymity

The new rules

The rules have actually been announced by China’s National Internet Information Office, and are expected to be enforced by Internet forum community service providers.

They require them to, among other things, supervise and manage their communities so that state prohibited information is not produced or disseminated (either by them or by users), and to make sure that the user information tied to each account is authentic and well protected.

Banned information

“Prohibited information” in this context includes information:

  • Opposing the principles of the Chinese constitution
  • Endangering national security
  • Damaging to national honor and interests
  • Inciting national hatred, ethnic discrimination and undermining national unity
  • Undermining national religious policies, promoting cults and feudal superstitions
  • Rumors disrupting social order and destroying social stability
  • Obscenity, pornography, gambling, violence, murder, terror or abetting a crime
  • Insulting or slandering others and infringing upon their rights
  • Any other content prohibited by laws and administrative regulations.

The new rules are set to come into effect on October 1.

China moves to tighten control of the Internet

The Chinese government has been trying to tie mobile and online communications and interaction to real-life identities for many years.

In 2010, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology begun requiring people to use their real names when getting a mobile number.

Then, in 2012, it forced popular Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo to ask users to provide an ID card or mobile phone number in order to be allowed to post on the site.

In 2014, the rise of popularity of Tencent’s WeChat messaging (and mobile payments, and news) app has resulted in the requirement for users to provide their real name if they want to open or continue using their account. Other messaging services were also required to do the same.

In 2016, the government went after electronic payment systems such as Alibaba’s Alipay and WeChat Pay, and users had to link their accounts with a domesting bank card or providing information that would reveal their real identity.

The success of all these efforts has been mixed, but obviously that doesn’t stop the government from continuing to try to impose “real name registration” for digital accounts of every kind.

Also, earlier this year, the government allegedly told state-run telecommunications companies that, from February 1st, 2018, they need to block their users from accessing personal VPNs.