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China 28 May 2007

Government drops plan to ban anonymous blogging but imposes self-discipline

Reporters Without Borders takes note of a bill posted, on 22 May, on the website of the Internet Society of China, an offshoot of the information industries ministry, under which blog services will be encouraged but not forced to adopt a system for registering bloggers by their real names. Under an initial draft, it would have been mandatory for bloggers to register under their real names. The ISC said it was posting the bill in order to canvass the public’s views.

“Self-discipline is now being extended to blogging although it has already had disastrous effects on the quality of news and information available online in China,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We will continue to defended full freedom for bloggers.”

President Hu Jintao and the Communist Party political bureau met on 23 April to discuss how to improve control over the Internet, saying they wanted to “purify” it. The rapid growth in Internet use in China is worrying the authorities and they have been trying to regulate it by all means possible. China is still on the Reporters Without Borders list of the world’s 13 Internet enemies. Of the 68 cyber-dissidents currently imprisoned worldwide, 50 are in China.

23.10.06 - Moves to ban anonymous blogging, punish "defamatory" videos

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about a recommendation by the Internet Society of China, which is affiliated to the information ministry, that bloggers should be required to register under their real names when creating a blog. The call came just weeks after authorities in the southwestern province of Chongqing announced that people posting "defamatory" videos on the Internet will be punished.

"The blog services available in China are already closely controlled," Reporters Without Borders said. "They automatically filter sensitive content and moderators are told to warn bloggers who go too far. Despite these restrictions, the Chinese blogosphere is growing rapidly. But that could be brought to a complete halt by a rule ending anonymity for bloggers. In a country where you can spend 10 years in prison for a few messages posted on the Internet, keeping a political blog under one’s own name would be extremely risky."

The Internet Society of China said today that, although no rule had yet been established, the introduction of a real-name system was inevitable. Internet users would have to give their real names when they launch a blog but thereafter would be able to use a pseudonym, the society said.

Voicing support for this proposal, the official news agency Xinhua said, “bloggers anonymously disseminating untrue information on the Internet have a negative influence on Chinese society.”

A regulation adopted in Chongqing province at the end of last month stipulated that defamatory remarks posted online would be punishable by a fine of 5,000 yuan (about 500 euros) and even imprisonment in some cases. The regulations is aimed above all at preventing the circulation of satirical videos, which are becoming more and more popular on the Internet in China.

"The government is past master in the art of regulating new technology," Reporters Without Borders added. "Each time a new Internet tool becomes available, the authorities find technical and legal means to control it. Websites and chat forums were the first to suffer from Beijing’s censorship. Now it is the turn of blogs and online video exchange systems."

China, which now has about 130 million Internet users and more than 17 million bloggers, is also the country with the most developed human and technological resources for censoring the Internet. With 52 people currently in prison for criticising the authorities on a website or in a blog, China is by far the world’s biggest prison for cyber-dissidents.

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