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China demands internet platforms verify users’ true identity

China has ordered the country’s internet platforms to verify users’ true identity before letting them post online content, the latest step by authorities to tighten policing of the web.

All social networking sites and discussion forums must “check the real identity” of their users before they can post online content and comments, under new regulations published Friday by the Cyberspace Administration of China.

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The platforms will also have to strengthen their oversight over all published information, deleting all illegal content while also alerting authorities to the postings.

The new guidelines take effect October 1.

China already had laws requiring companies to verify a user’s identity but it was applied in a fragmented and incomplete way.

But forcing online posters to identify themselves — which will probably require scanning a government-issued ID as proof of identity — makes it much more difficult to post online anonymously.

China already tightly controls the internet aggressively blocking sites of which it disapproves and curbing politically sensitive online commentary, such as on criticism of the government.

The new regulation was adopted as part of a cybersecurity law that took effect in June, which bans internet users from publishing a wide variety of information.

That covers  anything that damages “national honour”, “disturbs economic or social order” or is aimed at “overthrowing the socialist system”.

The law also requires online platforms to get a licence to post news reports or commentary about the government, economy, military, foreign affairs, and social issues.

Since 2013, China has imposed prison sentences on users whose messages are deemed “defamatory”.

But new restrictive measures have multiplied in recent months, ahead of the Communist Party’s autumn congress during which President Xi Jinping is expected to be re-elected.

China has enforced new rules on what is permissible content, with content such as celebrity gossip blogs and online video streaming sites hit by the regulations.

The authorities have also stepped up efforts to clamp down on virtual private networks (VPN), software that allows people to circumvent the Great Firewall.

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China demands internet platforms verify users' true identity