Beijing tightens online censorship
by John Ai

The new rules will come into effect in August. Web service providers will display users’ IP addresses and the geographic location of online posts. Authorities will also impose harsh restrictions on data flowing abroad. China’s largest academic journal database is under state security inspection. 



Rome (AsiaNews) - Chinese authorities have published new regulations on internet censorship that aim to reveal the identity of users and prevent the flow of data outside China. They are the latest efforts by the government to tighten online control in the name of state security.

A new regulation released by the Cyberspace Administration of China requires web users to provide their true personal information when signing up for accounts for web services, including job occupation, while the internet service providers must disclose users’ IP addresses. In addition, when registering new accounts that create content in specific professions such as economy, education, medical service and law, the users must provide professional certificates. The new regulation comes into effect in August.

The Cyberspace Administration of China oversees the affairs of the Internet, propaganda and censorship, and it owns the China Internet Investment Fund, which has ownership stakes in major technology firms, involving areas of digital infrastructure, social networks, artificial intelligence, and big data, etc.

With China’s slack economic growth, authorities have reinforced the censorship on the economic agenda and worry the economic issues may impact social stability. Economists’ pessimistic analyses and forecasts are targets of censorship. Major Chinese social networks have begun displaying users’ geographical locations since May.

Deliberate typos, homonyms, symbols and English letters are usually used by Chinese netizens in sensitive posts to circumvent censorship. The new regulation also forbids such conduct.

Real name registration for social networks has been in effect for years, and users are asked to provide ID number and phone number to sign up for a new account. Recently, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released an online portal to allow users to look up how many accounts of social networks are associated with their phone number and ID number. At the moment, 11 most used apps are connected to the system and it is expected more services will join this system. The system indicates that cross-platform censorship is possible the authorities have the capability to close a user’s all accounts on different social media at the same time if necessary.

Another regulation requires the service providers that transfer users’ personal information or “important data” abroad to report to the government for security evaluation. The regulation does not define the scope of “important data”. Analysts say that the new regulation may impose a new challenge for multinational companies for IT structure and additional costs to store the data in China.

China has already tightened the restriction on companies that planned to launch on the foreign stock exchange since last year as foreign companies listed on US exchanges are mandated to disclose more information to meet the auditing requirements. Forced by state security investigation from Chinese authorities, China’s leading car-hailing service Didi quit the New York Stock Exchange.

Currently the academic area is targeted by state security inspection. China’s largest academic journal database, China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) has been under scrutiny by the Cyberspace Administration of China since the end of June. The announcement of the Cyberspace Administration of China claimed that CNKI has important data in key industries and dynamics of the latest technology.