Less than a month after governments debated ending online anonymity and other proposals to impose a global regulatory regime on the Internet at a United Nations conference in Dubai, the dictatorship ruling mainland China announced that all Web users would have to identify themselves with their full names. The new rules also mandate that “illegal” content — criticism of the regime, for example — be immediately scrubbed and reported to authorities.
The latest move against online freedom in China, approved by the autocratic regime’s so-called “legislature,” is aimed at further quashing public dissent. It was announced after a series of incidents illustrated that regular Chinese people were becoming increasingly brazen in criticizing the corrupt ruling Communist Party and its ruthless machinations.
Of course, the people of China have long suffered from widespread online restrictions and official censorship — the totalitarians in Beijing have famously created what is likely the most Orwellian Internet regime on Earth. At the International Telecommunication Union summit in Dubai in December, the Chinese dictatorship even joined with other repressive regimes in a failed effort to push similar restrictions at the global level.
Traditional media such as newspapers and television in China, meanwhile, are owned and run by the dictatorship itself, helping authorities to maintain stricter control over information than probably any other government in history. As an additional precaution, for the brave souls who do dare to speak out, punishment can be swift and brutal — forced-labor re-education camps, arbitrary prison sentences, attacks on family members, torture, and worse.
Still, despite the regime’s best efforts, pesky critics continue to criticize the tyranny and the overbearing corruption, especially online. So-called “micro-blogging” has proliferated, and even the regime’s “social networking” services — popular Western ones such as Twitter and Facebook are mostly banned — have helped citizens to expose lawlessness, corruption, and more. And as ever greater numbers of Chinese join the online world, the trend toward speaking out is only accelerating.
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