BEIJING, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- New rules will require Internet users in China to register their real identities and not hide behind pseudonyms.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the overseer of 649 million Internet users and a part of the country's Communist Party, said regulations effective in March will require all patrons of online accounts, blogs, instant messaging services, microblogs and forums to submit identification information. Pseudonyms will be permitted, but real names must be registered, CAC chief Xu Feng said.
The rules are intended to eliminate use of the names of celebrities or public officials, although Chinese President Xi Jinping has demonstrated he is eager to suppress dissent and regards the Internet as a landscape the Communist Party must control. Regulators shut down numerous social media accounts in January, accusing them of offenses that included the website Netease's alleged dissemination of pornography and the distortion of history on the messenger service WeChat.
"To maintain the stability of society and national security has always been at the top of the list for the Chinese government, and it is continuously revising the regulations to make sure it has the necessary coverage," Charlie Dai, an Internet analyst with Forrester Research, told the Wall Street Journal.
Similar rules were passed by the State Internet Information Office (SIIO) in 2012; it has not followed up with enforcement, and opponents have criticized the SIIO regulations as attacks on free speech.