As the authorities tighten regulation of online speech by reinforcing real-name registration by Internet users, many people worry that the Internet as China’s last free speech zone might be desolated. From Nathan Green at Pando Daily:
With real name registration, the devolution of responsibility extends beyond the website operators and reaches individual users. When each Weibo post becomes tied to an identified person, then each individual user will be more likely to practice self-censorship with respect to their own posts.
Even without real name registration for user generated content websites, true anonymity on China’s internet does not exist for most users. When registering for home or business internet access, real name registration is already required. Seventy percent of mobile phone users also register with their real names according to China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the new rules suggest that the anonymous prepaid mobile phone cards will be phased out. Internet cafés are also required to record the real identity of each user. As a result, unless someone posting on Weibo is being very careful, the government already has the means to identify the author of an unwanted post. The six people arrested in connection with spreading rumors of a coup attempt in the spring of 2012 discovered this fact the hard way.
To achieve self-censorship, however, the users must first understand that they can and will be held accountable for the content they post. As a result, it would not be surprising to see implementation of real name registration accompanied by publicity campaigns and a number of high profile prosecutions for posting illegal content.
[...] This new rules were issued by the standing committee of the National People’s Congress, which has a higher position in the official government structure than both the municipality of Beijing and the
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