China enacts 'real name policy' for internet addresses
It's like Facebook's only, you know, could land you in jail
China has enacted its own version of Facebook's "real name policy" for the registration of internet addresses.
Under renewed rules covering companies that are allowed to sell domain names and run top-level domains in China, there is now a requirement for those companies to introduce the capability for "real name verification."
The rules are the first time the "Chinese Measures for the Administration of Internet Domain Names" have been updated since 2004 by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
Companies wishing to offer domain names in China are still required to obtain a license from MIIT, although they will no longer be required to show assets of 1m yuan ($150,000) to get it.
The key difference, however, is in the inclusion of a new requirement: "The registry shall have the capability to engage in real name verification and users' personal information protection, and the capability to provide long-term services as well as sound service withdrawal mechanism."
The new rules also define what the Chinese government means by "TLD management system" and include registration databases, the registration system and the Whois system, which lists owners of domain names. In other words, if you wish to register a domain in China, the company that takes your registration will be required to gather your personal information and verify it.
In reality, this has already been the norm for a number of years, with the Chinese government pressuring companies that wish to do business in its enormous market to introduce such systems. However, it is now formally in the rules and requirements.
Facebook has faced significant criticism for enacting a similar policy in its efforts to increase security and cut down on abuse – a policy it recently tweaked following an outcry.
The implications of such a policy from the Chinese government are much more alarming, however, given the country's well-documented willingness to arrest and jail critics of the main Communist party and its powerful elite.
Just this week, the government embarked on an extensive investigation to track down the author of an anonymous letter that called on President Xi Jinping to resign for the good of China and his own safety. It was briefly spread by email.
China also boasts the most sophisticated and far-reaching system for filtering and censorship of the internet, known as the Great Firewall of China. ®