China may require Internet users to register with their real names when signing up to network providers, state media said yesterday, extending a policy already in force with microblogs in a bid to curb what officials call rumors and vulgarity.
A law being discussed this week would require people to present their government-issued identity cards when signing contracts for fixed line and mobile Internet access, state-run newspapers said.
“The law should escort the development of the Internet to protect people’s interest,” the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) mouthpiece the People’s Daily said in a front page commentary, echoing similar calls carried in state media over the past week.
“Only that way can our Internet be healthier, more cultured and safe,” it said.
Many users say the restrictions are clearly aimed at further muzzling the often scathing, raucous — and perhaps most significantly, anonymous — online chatter in a country where the Internet offers a rare opportunity for open debate.
It could also prevent people from exposing corruption online if they fear retribution from officials, some users said.
It was unclear how the rules would be different from existing regulations as state media has provided only vague details and in practice customers have long had to present identity papers when signing contracts with Internet providers.
Earlier this year, the government began forcing users of Sina Corp’s (新浪) wildly successful Weibo microblogging platform to register their real names.
The government says such a system is needed to prevent people from making malicious and anonymous accusations online and that many other countries already have such rules.
“It would also be the biggest step backwards since 1989,” wrote one indignant Weibo user, in an apparent reference to the 1989 pro-democracy protests bloodily suppressed by the army.