The New York Times
Saturday, December 29, 2012
China Toughens Restrictions on Internet Use
By KEITH BRADSHER
HONG KONG — The Chinese government issued new rules on Friday requiring Internet users to provide their real names to service providers, while assigning Internet companies greater responsibility for deleting forbidden postings and reporting them to the authorities.
The decision came as government censors have sharply stepped up restrictions on China’s international Internet traffic in recent weeks. The restrictions are making it harder for businesses to protect commercial secrets and for individuals to view overseas Web sites that the Chinese Communist Party deems politically sensitive.
The new regulations, issued by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, allow Internet users to continue to adopt pseudonyms for their online postings, but only if they first provide their real names to service providers, a measure that could chill some of the vibrant discourse on the country’s Twitter-like microblogs. The authorities periodically detain and even jail Internet users for politically sensitive comments, such as calls for a multiparty democracy or accusations of impropriety by local officials.
Any entity providing Internet access, including over fixed-line or mobile phones, “should when signing agreements with users or confirming provision of services, demand that users provide true information about their identities,” the committee ordered.
In recent weeks, Internet users in China have exposed a series of sexual and financial scandals that have led to the resignations or dismissals of at least 10 local officials. International news media have also published a series of reports in recent months on the accumulation of wealth by the family members of China’s leaders, and some Web sites carrying such reports, including Bloomberg’s and the English- and Chinese-language sites of The New York Times, have been assiduously blocked, while Internet comments about them have been swiftly deleted.
The regulations issued Friday build on a series of similar administrative guidelines and municipal rules issued over the past year. China’s mostly private Internet service providers have been slow to comply with them, fearing the reactions of their customers. The committee’s decision has much greater legal force, and puts far more pressure on Chinese Internet providers to comply more quickly and more comprehensively, Internet specialists said.
In what appeared to be an effort to make the decision more palatable to the Chinese public, the committee also included a mandate for businesses in China to be more cautious in gathering and protecting electronic data.