China is to require that the country’s 650 million Internet users use their real names when registering online.
The new rule comes into effect from March 1 and is intended to halt the spread of rumors and the use of social media accounts masquerading as public figures.
Internet service providers and Internet companies will have the first responsibility of enforcing the rules, according to the Cyberspace Administration of China.
Earlier this week the CAC accused portal NetEase of providing a platform for spreading rumors and pornography. Last month it ordered the closing down of 133 accounts on WeChat, the messaging, chat and microblogging service operated by Tencent, which it said ‘distorted history.’
Under President Xi Jinping, China has been stepping up its already sophisticated and pervasive controls over the Internet.
Last week, the country’s online policing service known colloquially as ‘The Great Firewall of China’ stepped up measures to prevent Chinese Internet-users using virtual private networks. VPN software allows users to make their connections secure and also to appear to be located abroad. Using overseas IP addresses enables Chinese netizens to access sites such as Facebook, Twitter and numerous Google services which are banned in China, or foreign media such as the New York Times and The Guardian, which are also outlawed.