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A Chinese watchdog organization recently announced a new policy, which requires all its citizens to use their real names when registering for accounts online, including blogs and social media. This policy will go into effect starting March 1. Technically citizens are already required  by law to use their real names when creating certain online accounts, it just hasn’t been strictly enforced before now. This change in policy is in response to a large number of parody accounts being created to mock the people and institutions of the Chinese government.

For millions of people living under the authoritarian Chinese regime, openly criticizing the government could lead to imprisonment or even death. Speaking online under the cloak of anonymity is the only way for many people to publicly criticize the government in relative safety. Microblog operator Weibo Corp has stated their strong support for the new regulations, and has already deleted hundreds of accounts that impersonate public figures.

China is no stranger to online censorship of course. Its infamous “Great Firewall” blocks a large number of sites within the country, including any that might be considered subversive or dangerous to the government. This crackdown anonymity is an attempt to crush what little open dissent still remains in the country. No one can spread messages that the government doesn’t approve of through social media, without their actual identity being revealed.

While some outside the country might look on in disgust when they see China further tightening its grip on the internet within its borders, there are however at least some people in the west who have similar goals in mind. In past few months, several figures, such as actor Wil Wheaton, have called for ending anonymity online. Ostensibly the reason is to put an end to online trolling, but an unavoidable consequence of ending anonymity is the stifling of criticism against those in positions of power.

Do you think ending anonymity online is an authoritarian move by the Chinese government, or is it justified? Should a similar policy be adopted by Western countries? Leave your comment below.

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

  • Azure

    Should we put cameras in our houses to monitor what we say to each other?

    I think the answer is a no brainer.

  • coboney

    True, no brain was used by the people who answered yes to that question!

  • Audie Bakerson

    I predict people with same/similar names to politicians (which is comparatively easy in Chinese, especially romanized Chinese) will now be running parody accounts.

    That and people will break the law outright.

  • NorBdelta

    Why citizen need anonymity? Good citizens have no need to fear democratic government.

  • ZURATAMA1324

    Thinking leads to reasoning, reasoning leads to right and wrong, wrong leads to revolt, revolt leads to bad citizens….

    And bad citizens… THINK!

    Thinking leads to reasoning, reasoning leads to right and wrong, wrong leads to revolt, revolt leads to bad citizens…. (on and on)

  • ArsCortica

    I think claiming that all Chinese citizens will have to pertain to this new rule is a bit overblown. Surely members of the Communist party who are friends with the right people can retain their anonymity and generally do whatever they please, no?

  • Kitsunetsuki

    The “problem” with anonymous internet users is they are not in fear of losing their jobs, their safety and their freedom whenever they speak. This means they do not self censor according to the prevailing ideology.

    For fear mongering ideologues, this is a major problem.

    For law enforcement purposes, there is no real anonymity in the west anyway.

  • Ben Jeanotte

    Wow, yikes.

  • Salt Miner

    I fear the day when all US citizens we be under surveillance 24/7 by big broth… I-I-I mean big sister (don’t wanna sound misogynistic). Telling us what to eat, what to feel, what to smell, what to look at, when to breathe air, when to take a shit, and what to think. That’ll be the day when hell freezes over and can’t take a step outside without constantly looking over our shoulder.

  • Jesus Zamora

    Considering Wil Wheaton has no political power, and will likely never hold power, I don’t worry about him very much. Someone who was a has-been before I was in high school doesn’t scare me much. It DOES suck to see what’s happening in China, however… Though I suppose it’s not unexpected, as the Chinese economy is a massive house of cards.