China to ban anonymous online comments – China’s latest society and culture news

Society & Culture

A summary of the top news in Chinese society and culture for August 25, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

“I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the government to ban people from commenting.”

“You are still allowed to write comments, but you have to be responsible for what you say. If you are a well-behaved internet user, there is nothing to fear.”

These are two of the reactions (in Chinese) to news that the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s top internet regulator, announced (in Chinese) that, starting October 1, it will require internet users to identify themselves with their real names to use comments sections on news and social media websites. The users do not have to display their real names when commenting and can continue to use nicknames, but the rules require internet companies to verify the real identities of all users of commenting functions. This is known as “real name in the back end, voluntary use of real name on the front end” (后台实名,前台自愿 hòutáishímíng, qiántáizìyuàn).

According to the notice, all forms of comments — on websites, mobile apps, or any other digital platforms — are subject to the new rule, including “bullet screen” (弹幕 dànmù), a popular feature among young Chinese that allows users to have their comments scroll across the screen while watching videos.

The rules also stipulate that companies must implement a real-time review system to filter inappropriate comments before they appear on the internet. CAC offices at national and provincial levels are instructed to conduct regular credential checks on providers of commenting services and establish a blacklist for violators.

The goal, as the CAC said in the notice, is to “improve the management of the online commenting service and promote healthy and orderly development of the service,” since online comments have led to “the dissemination of rumors, vulgar language and illegal information.”

A partial history of real-name registration in links

There has been talk of real-name registration (实名制 shímíngzhì) for internet and mobile services since the early 2000s, but implementation has, until recent years, been ineffective. This is hardly surprising, as it was only in 2000 that China made it compulsory (in Chinese) to use real names when opening bank accounts. Not until 2015 was ID required to open a mobile phone account.

Wikipedia’s Chinese-language version has a good history of real-name registration in China, or you can read in English about some of the milestones below: