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China Forcing Internet Companies to End Online Anonymity

Apple removed several VPN apps from the iTunes store in China, citing local law.Apple removed several VPN apps from the iTunes store in China, citing local law.

China is cracking down on censorship once again, but this time things are a touch more serious.

According to new rules published by China’s main Internet censor last Friday, individuals who want to post comments online will now have to register with their real names, the Verge reported.

They can still use pseudonyms, but those names are tied to their real identities. The new rules come ahead of the communist party’s 19th National Congress, which convenes this autumn and is usually a time when the regime tightens the ship.

Half of this is nothing new; the Chinese government has always ordered people to register with their real names and has made attempts to enforce this on various levels over the past three years.

This time, however, the difference is that internet companies and service providers are being made responsible for ensuring users stay fully identified. Companies and service providers are also required to report any illegal content they see on any platform to the government.

Despite China’s many attempts to control the internet, users have always found ways to skirt the rules and hide in a degree of anonymity in Weibo (a Chinese micro blogging site similar to Twitter) chats and other platforms.

And the use of VPNs to bypass China’s firewall has been prevalent in China. But even the VPNs are beginning to fall under the relentless pressure of Chinese censorship. As of early August, Apple removed several VPN apps from the iTunes store in China, citing local law.

Now, China plans to do away with citizens’ last semblance of privacy by shifting the responsibility onto companies and service providers. So when an individual adopts a username, they might call themselves by a different name on the web, but they can’t hide their true name from the government.

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