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.