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China to ban online pseudonyms and parody accounts, as it forces internet users to give their real names

Experts say the ruling will crack down on internet activism

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 04 February 2015 12:35 GMT
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Customers play computer games at an Internet cafe in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China.
Customers play computer games at an Internet cafe in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Chinese internet users will be forced to use their real names on social media and blogs, in line with a new rule from Chinese internet regulators.

It comes on the back of recent news that the “great firewall”, China’s internet blocks, climbed higher than ever last week with the blocking of the virtual private networks that many use to get to banned sites.

Since 2012, Beijing has required that internet companies keep the real names of some users. But the country has now rolled the rule out to blogs, social media and website comment sections, and will be applied more comprehensively.

Many such websites give internet users their only way of expressing themselves freely, given the strong crackdown on discussion on the internet and elsewhere.

The rules also require internet services for the first time to have users sign a contract that includes a pledge to refrain from "illegal and unhealthy" activity.

The Cyberspace Administration of China, the group that runs the “great firewall”, said that the rules had been instituted to stop “username chaos”. Using parody accounts of famous people such as Putin and Obama promoted “vulgar culture” and helped people commit fraud, the group said in a statement.

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