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胡泳,北京大学新闻与传播学院副教授,博士。价值中国网(www.chinavalue.net)总编辑。中国传播学会常务理事。著有《网络为王》、《众声喧哗》等,译有《数字化生存》、《未来是湿的》等。

北京大学新闻与传播学院副教授,博士。价值中国网(www.chinavalue.net)总编辑。中国传播学会常务理事。著有《网络为王》、《众声喧哗》等,译有《数字化生存》、《未来是湿的》等。

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china expands real-name registration online  

2012-01-19 22:40:41|  分类: expect |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/19/world/asia/china-expands-program-requiring-real-name-registration-online.html

China Expands Program Requiring Real-Name Registration Online

By MICHAEL WINES

Published: January 18, 2012

BEIJING — China will expand nationwide a trial program that requires users of the country’s wildly popular microblog services to disclose their identities to the government in order to post comments online, the government’s top Internet regulator said Wednesday.

 

The official, Wang Chen, said at a news conference that registration trials in five major eastern Chinese cities would continue until wrinkles were worked out. But he said that eventually all 250 million users of microblogs, called weibos here, would have to register, beginning first with new users.

Mr. Wang indicated that under the program, users could continue to use nicknames online, even though they would still be required to register their true identities.

The announcement was long expected. Because the registration rules apply to Internet companies — most of which are in Beijing or the other four cities covered under the trial — the practical effect is to certify that the government will now formally require those companies to register all users of weibos eventually. Some users and analysts had suggested that such a requirement would be met with a public outcry. In fact, the response has been comparatively muted.

Mr. Wang leads the State Council Information Office, which regulates the Internet and the government’s domestic public relations machine. He also is a deputy director of the Communist Party’s propaganda department and, in particular, is in charge of China’s lavishly financed recent efforts to burnish its image worldwide.

The government has said that it is studying real-name registration of microbloggers to limit the spread of malicious rumors, pornography, swindles and other unhealthy practices on microblogs, which have become a major source of news for many Chinese.

Free speech advocates generally condemn the move, saying that the microblogs’ freewheeling debate and frequent criticism of official misconduct will be neutered if the government knows the identity of everyone who posts a comment. Real-name use also would allow security officers to identify microblog users who consistently post comments about delicate issues, even if their individual remarks do not attract large numbers of readers.

With a population of about 1.3 billion, China counted 513 million people online in 2011. That was a sharp increase from 2010, but microblogs have grown even more spectacularly, quadrupling the number of users in the past year. They revealed their power to drive public opinion last July, after a high-speed train crash in Zhejiang Province prompted tens of millions of online comments, many condemning the government’s stewardship of the rail system and its response to the accident.

The government soon stepped up its efforts to monitor and censor online dialogue on delicate topics, with senior Communist Party officials visiting major Internet companies to underscore their concern. The trial requirement of real-name registration was announced last month.

Mr. Wang said Wednesday that the government broadly supported citizens’ use of microblogs, on which posts are typically limited in size, as on Twitter, noting that an average day sees 150 million new comments posted online. “Weibos can indeed reflect people’s opinion and spread positive voices and enrich information services,” he said. “But they have also made it easy for some irrational voices and negative opinions and harmful information to spread quickly.”

Real-name registration will have a chilling effect on some kinds of online comment, Hu Yong, an associate professor at Peking University’s school of journalism and communications, said Wednesday in a telephone interview. But it remains to be seen how many users will be dissuaded from speaking out on controversial issues, Mr. Hu added.

“Certainly some people will not dare to speak out about certain issues,” he said. “But a lot of people already are using their real names, even in discussing current affairs. And the user base of weibos is so huge that if something happens to highly concern their own interests, I think you’ll still hear a loud uproar.”

At Wednesday’s news conference, Mr. Wang also suggested that the government and the Communist Party would continue to expand and improve the domestic and global public relations machines, starting with training for press officers, who are increasingly deployed in government offices.

Some press officers are “putting the government on the back foot in dealing with emergency events,” he said, because they have not yet learned how to respond quickly and accurately to requests for information. He said public relations officials would be trained in “political thought” and “the spirit of speaking truth,” adding: “Speaking honestly is the most valuable quality of news spokespersons. Skills are necessary, but that comes second.”

On the foreign front, Mr. Wang said, “We will spread the voice of China to the world with an even more open attitude and more efficient methods.”

The goal, he said, is to educate foreigners about China’s domestic and foreign policies, values and culture “so that we can show off a national image of being civilized, democratic, open and progressive.”

Edy Yin contributed research.

A version of this article appeared in print on January 19, 2012, on page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: China Expands Online Registration Rules.

 

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