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China May Require Real Names When Chatting Online

chat bubble with chinese flagThe Chinese government has never really cozied up to the concept of individual liberty -- especially not on the Internet. A newly disclosed report, however, suggests that the People's Republic may be considering an even more draconian approach to policing its online populace.

Back in April, the director of China's State Council Information Office, Wang Chen, gave a speech in which he implored lawmakers to pass legislation that would mandate all Chinese citizens to use their real names when chatting online or using their mobile phones. As the AP reports, Chinese officials quickly (and ironically) removed Chen's transcript from the legislative website, most likely due to worries that news of the so-called 'real name system' might incite populist backlash. A New York-based organization known as the Human Rights Group in China, however, got its hands on the transcript and went public with it -- although that still doesn't mean that any Chinese users will ever hear of it.

The transcript, published in the organization's journal, 'China Rights Forum,' quotes Chen as saying, "We will make the Internet real name system a reality as soon as possible, implement a nationwide cell phone real name system, and gradually apply the real name registration system to online interactive processes." If implemented, the real name system would require all users to use their real names in forums or chatrooms, and would mandate all moderators to delete any comment posted under an alias.

Online forums have always served as an oasis for China's Web community, where users could talk relatively freely under the cloak of an online pseudonym. In reality, the government could probably use IP addresses to track down any rabble-rousing user. But the veil of anonymity, thin as it may be, must have provided at least some psychological comfort to Chinese users who dared to speak their minds. If this new measure ever sees the light of day, though, even that small, artificial comfort could evaporate. [From: AP, via: Geekosystem]

Tags: censorship, china, control, government, HumanRights, Internet, politics, privacy, top, web

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