Saturday, August 23, 2014

On 110th Anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's Birth, Sina Weibo Censors "Deng Xiaoping Tanks"

The screenshots above were taken on August 22, 2014, and show that Sina Weibo did not censor searches for "Deng Xiaoping" (邓小平) or "Tanks" (坦克), but did censor searches for "Deng Xiaoping Tanks."  (邓小平 坦克)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Global Times: Gao Zhisheng's "Name Is Blocked On the Web." Meanwhile, Baidu Stops Showing Censorship Notice for Searches for "Gao Zhisheng"

On August 8, 2014, the state sponsored Global Times published an editorial under the name “Shan Renping” (单仁平) entitled “Human Rights Lawyers Not Above the Law” (in Chinese: “Why Is the West All Hot Over a Released ‘Rights Defense Lawyer’” (西方为何热捧获释的“维权律师”)). Some excerpts from the English version:
According to some foreign media reports, Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer who was put into prison three years ago on the charge of inciting subversion of State power, was released on Thursday. He made headlines in Western media very quickly, becoming another prominent Chinese dissident.
. . . .
Gao is not well-known among the Chinese public, and there is little information about him on the Chinese Internet.
The Chinese version of the editorial put the preceding sentence somewhat differently, stating “Because Gao Zhisheng is not well known in Chinese society and his name is blocked on the web, there is very little public information about him.” (由于高智晟在中国社会的知名度不大,他的名字在网上被屏蔽,可以找到有关他的公开材料很少。).

This screenshot was taken on August 15, 2014, and shows an article written by Gao published on the Ministry of Justice’s website in 2003 entitled “The Heavy Responsibility of a New Lawyer” (初为律师责任之重)


Most major Internet companies in China censor searches for Gao Zhisheng’s name. For example, here are screenshots showing search results from August 8, 2014:

Qihoo returns no results, and tells users “Search results may not comply with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, and have not been displayed” (搜索结果可能不符合相关法律法规和政策,未予显示。).


Sina and Tencent tell users of their Weibo microblogging platforms “In accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, search results for ‘Gao Zhisheng have not been displayed” (根据相关法律法规和政策,“高智晟”搜索结果未予显示。 ) and “In accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, search results have not been displayed” (根据相关法律法规和政策,搜索结果未予显示。), respectively.


Chinaso, a search engine established by a consortium of major PRC state run media outlets including the People’s Daily and Xinhua, returns six results from several major PRC state run media outlets, and informs users “In accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, some search results have not been displayed” (根据相关法律法规和政策,部分搜索结果未予显示。).


Sogou returns over 50 results from websites licensed to operate in the PRC, and tells users “In accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, some search results have not been displayed” (根据相关法律法规和政策,部分搜索结果未予显示。).


Baidu returns no search results, and tells users “Apologies, unable to find any relevant web pages” (抱歉,没有找到与“高智晟”相关的网页). This represents a change from Baidu’s prior policy of providing an explicit notice that no search results can be displayed because they may violate the law (as Qihoo continues to do).


This screenshot, also taken on August 8, shows that, while Baidu claims it is unable to find any search results for “Gao Zhisheng,” Bing is able to find several results on Baidu’s own web pages that contain Gao’s name.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

China’s Real Name Internet Part 5: 2013 - 2014

The propaganda campaign launched in late 2012 coincided with the release of new regulations requiring micro-blogging platforms such as Sina Weibo to impose real name registration requirements on their users. On December 19, 2012, China's official new agency Xinhua published a report entitled "Punish Online Criminals, Strengthen the Protection and Administration of the Internet in Accordance with the Law" (惩治网络违法犯罪 依法加强网络信息保护和管理). That report stated that on December 24 the National People's Congress Standing Committee would be considering a draft "Decision Regarding Strengthening Network Information Protection." (关于加强网络信息保护的决定)

On December 29, 2012, the People's Daily published an editorial on its front page entitled "Safeguard the Healthy and Orderly Operation of the Internet in Accordance with the Law" (依法保障网络健康有序运行).  The editorial stated that the National People's Congress Standing Committee had enacted the "Decision," which was effectively a law (Chinese and English versions of the Decision are available here - http://blog.feichangdao.com/2012/12/translation-decision-regarding.html)

Article 6 of the Decision read:
When entering into agreements or confirming the provision of services with users, network service providers who provide users network connection services, conduct network access procedures for fixed and mobile telephones, or who provide users with information issuing services shall require users to provide truthful identity information.
Over a year later, in March 2014, Sina would state in an F1 IPO filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission: “We are required to verify the identities of all of our users who post on Weibo, but have not been able to do so, and our noncompliance exposes us to potentially severe penalty by the Chinese government.” It went on to say:
Microblogging service providers are required to verify the identities of their users. In addition, microblogging service providers based in Beijing were required to verify the identities of all of their users by March 16, 2012, including existing users who post publicly on their websites [Relevant Regulation]. The user identity verification requirements have deterred new users from completing their registrations on Weibo, and a significant portion of the registrations in which user identity information was provided were rejected because they do not match the Chinese government database.
We have made significant efforts to comply with the user verification requirements. However, for reasons including existing user behaviors, the nature of the microblogging product and the lack of clarity on specific implementation procedures, we have not been able to verify the identities of all of the users who post content publicly on Weibo.
Sina's F1 is available here: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1595761/000119312514100237/d652805df1.htm

In April 2013, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television issued the "Notification Regarding Strengthening the Management of the Online Activities of News Editorial Personnel" (关于加强新闻采编人员网络活动管理的通知).  That notice included the following provisions:

  • News editorial personnel shall insist upon a Marxist view of the news, and shall insist upon encouraging unified stability and positive propaganda as their primary orientation.  (新闻采编人员要坚持马克思主义新闻观,坚持团结稳定鼓劲、正面宣传为主的方针。)
  • No news agencies may utilize overseas media, overseas web sites, or news information products without authorization. (未经批准, 各类新闻单位均不得擅自使用境外媒体、境外网站的新闻信息产品。)
  • Any news agency that establishes an official micro-blog must register with its sponsoring government agency. (新闻单位设立官方微博,须向其主管单位备案。)
  • Information obtained through professional activities may not be disseminated without authorization. (未经批准不得发布通过职务活动获得的各种信息。)
  • News editorial personnel may not disseminate false information on the Internet, and may not publish on any domestic or overseas web site any news information obtained through their professional news gathering without their news agencies examination, verification, and approval. (新闻采编人员不得在网络上发布虚假信息,未经所在新闻机构审核同意不得将职务采访获得的新闻信息刊发在境内外网站上。)
On August 13, 2013, a Sichuan government web site publishes an article entitled "The Seven Bottom Lines That Every Internet User Should Observe" (七条底线,全体网民应该共守).  According to that article, well-known online personalities had gathered at CCTV's headquarters in Beijing on August 10 and reached an agreement that are seven bottom lines that they would observe:
  1. Laws and Regulations
  2. Socialist System
  3. National Interest
  4. Citizens' Legal Rights and Interests
  5. Social Order
  6. Moral Norms
  7. Factual Information
Although it was listed third, the article stated:
The National Interest is to be placed above all others, because without the nation we have nothing. That is the way of the physical world, and even more so in the online world. We must forge an online patriotic culture, with the soul of online culture resting on the national interest.
国家利益高于一切,没有国家就没有我们的一切,现实世界如此,网络世界更如此,我们应该打造网络爱国主义文化,国家利益至上应该是网络文化的灵魂。
Regarding the socialist system, the article said:
This is our fundamental institution, this is a bottom line we cannot neglect, whether in real life on the Internet, we eat and live socialism. We cannot undermine ourselves.
这是我们的基本制度,这个底线不能丢,无论是现实中,还是网络上,我们吃的是社会主义的饭,过的是社会主义的生活,我们不能自己给自己掘墓。
Regarding factual information, the article said:
Currently, fake news and false information is flooding the Internet, and this represents a failure to implement the bottom line of factual information. Every one of us Internet users has a responsibility to uphold the bottom line of truth, and to discriminate between true and false, and not fabricate or spread false information. Information in the virtual world cannot be fictional.
现在,一些假新闻、假信息充斥网络,这就是信息真实底线失落的表现,我们每个网民都有责任维护这个真实底线,应该辨别真假,不制作、不传播不真实信息,虚拟世界的信息不能虚拟。
On March 28, 2014, the General Office of the State Council (国务院办公厅) issued the “Notice Regarding Duty Assignments in Implementing the ‘State Council Program for Structural Reform and Functional Reassignment.’” (关于实施《国务院机构改革和职能转变方案》任务分工的通知)  Article 2(13) of which listed the following as a “Duty to be Completed in 2014”:
Issue and implement a real name registration system for information networks. (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, State Internet Information Office, and the Ministry of Public Security to be jointly responsible. To be completed before the end of June 2014)
出台并实施信息网络实名登记制度。 (工业和信息化部、国家互联网信息办公室会同公安部负责。2014年6月底前完成)
On June 14, 2014, the State Council issued the Social Credibility System Construction Program (2014—2020)(社会信用体系建设规划纲要(2014—2020年)). The Program stated:
Building Credibility in the Internet Usage and Service Domain. Vigorously promote  building sincerity and honesty on the Internet, cultivate the idea of operating websites in accordance with the law, and using the Internet sincerely and honestly. Gradually implement a real name system for the Internet, improve Internet credibility and build legal safeguards, and vigorously promote the construction of Internet credibility oversight mechanisms. Establish Internet credibility evaluation systems, conduct evaluations of the credibility of companies engaged in the operation of Internet services and the online activities of personnel who go online, maintain credibility rankings. Establish Internet credibility files covering Internet enterprises and individuals who go online, actively promote the establishment of mechanisms for the exchange and sharing of credibility information between the Internet and social domains, and vigorously promote the widespread use of Internet credibility information in all aspects of society. Establish an Internet credibility blacklisting system, and add to the blacklist those enterprises and individuals whose Internet activities are seriously untrustworthy, such as engaging in Internet fraud, fabricating and spreading rumors, and infringing on the legal rights and interests of others. Restrict the online activities of individuals and ban enterprises from going online once they are placed on the blacklist, and notify relevant government agencies and conduct public exposes of them.
互联网应用及服务领域信用建设。大力推进网络诚信建设,培育依法办网、诚信用网理念,逐步落实网络实名制,完善网络信用建设的法律保障,大力推进网络信用监管机制建设。建立网络信用评价体系,对互联网企业的服务经营行为、上网人员的网上行为进行信用评估,记录信用等级。建立涵盖互联网企业、上网个人的网络信用档案,积极推进建立网络信用信息与社会其他领域相关信用信息的交换共享机制,大力推动网络信用信息在社会各领域推广应用。建立网络信用黑名单制度,将实施网络欺诈、造谣传谣、侵害他人合法权益等严重网络失信行为的企业、个人列入黑名单,对列入黑名单的主体采取网上行为限制、行业禁入等措施,通报相关部门并进行公开曝光。
On July 23, 2014, the Chinese government's website www.gov.cn invited Ping Zhongsheng (冯中圣), deputy director of the Finance Office of the National Development and Reform Commission to speak about the Program. In an article entitled Gradually Implement Internet Real Name Systems and Other Measures to Build Online Credibility (通过逐步落实网络实名制等措施加强网上诚信建设) the website quoted Ping as saying:
Not long ago, the NDRC and the State Internet Information Office convened a joint forum on building Internet credibility. During the meeting it was noted that it was necessary for major websites to set the example and lead the way, propagandize and guide, and provide proactive supervision, and to put forth effort in six areas to build website credibility: 
1. Establish web pages and web sites dedicated to credibility.
2. Explore establishing Internet credibility records.
3. Innovate and develop in the area of credibility evaluation.
4. Jointly implement methods to encourage complying with commitments.
5. Jointly implement methods of punishing failure to comply with commitments.
6. Actively promote the building of a culture of credibility.
The following month, on August 7, 2014, the State Internet Information Office issued the “Interim Rules on the Development and Administration of Instant Messaging Tools and Public Information Services” (即时通信工具公众信息服务发展管理暂行规定).  The Rules applied to anyone “employing instant messaging tools as public information services,” and included the following provisions:
  • Providers of instant messaging tool services must require their users to:
    • register using their actual identity information; and
    • enter into an agreement whereby they commit to abide by the "seven bottom lines.”
  • In addition, providers of instant messaging tool services must:
    • verify the identity of anyone applying to operate an account that allows them to post information to the general public (as opposed to a private group of designated users); and
    • register anyone they approve to operate public accounts with “a government agency responsible for Internet information content.”
  • Finally, the rules provide that only government licensed “Internet News Information Services” may use their public accounts to post or repost “news relating to current events or politics.” All other public accounts are prohibited from publishing or republishing current events and political news unless otherwise authorized.
According to the “Rules on the Administration of Internet News Services” (互联网新闻信息服务管理规定) issued jointly by the State Council and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in 2005, “news relating to current events or politics” (时政类新闻) is defined as including "reports and commentaries related to political, economic, military and diplomatic affairs as well as breaking events" (有关政治、经济、军事、外交等社会公共事务的报道、评论,以及有关社会突发事件的报道、评论).

Saturday, August 16, 2014

China's Real Name Internet Part 4: State Media's Version of Global Internet Governance

One common theme in the People's Daily editorials was that, when it comes to Internet regulation, "everyone does it" - at least three front page editorials explicitly discussed Internet regulation in other countries. In addition, during this period, the People's Daily published a series of reports entitled "Every Country Oversees and Manages the Internet in Accordance with Law - A Comprehensive Analysis" (各国依法监管互联网面面观). Countries covered included:
Other than an obscure reference to an "indirect real name system" in Japan, however, the People's Daily's discussion of how other countries have addressed the concept of a real name Internet consisted solely of the following:

Canada
The fundamental value of the practice of "self-discipline" rests in promoting free expression and free flow of information on the Internet, and encouraging forms of dispute resolution with respect to controversial and assaulting online information. The idea of Canada implementing laws for online real name systems is to require the Internet industry to implement strict self-discipline.
“自我规制”实践的根本价值取向就在于保持和促进网络表达自由和信息的自由流动,推进对有争议和攻击性网络信息的纠纷解决机制的形成。加拿大实施网络实名制法律意在要求互联网行业实行严格自律。
Mexico
Besides this, many government officials, including Mexican President Nieto, have already initiated discussions with ordinary Internet users about real name accounts for social web sites, guiding the public to set up a civilized online atmosphere. Currently some Mexican Senators and academics are strongly suggesting that the government should start moving social web sites to a real name system.
此外,包括墨西哥总统涅托在内的许多政府高官已开始带头在社交网站开设实名账户,直接同普通网民进行沟通和交流,引导民众树立文明上网之风。眼下,墨西哥一些国会议员和学者还强烈建议政府应适时启动社交网络实名制。
United States
In fact, in the United States, widely known for "freedom of speech," there exists calls from the public to implement a real name Internet system. Nowadays more and more mainstream media web sites are requiring Internet users to register before they can leave comments. In 2010, the gaming web site "Blizzard" began requiring users to use their real names to post on their forum.
. . . .
In addition to pleas by the public, the American government is also considering a plan for "online ID." In early 2011, the Obama administration proposed establishing a digital identification verification system, enabling American Internet users to send emails, register on social web sites, and conduct online purchases without having to input their user names and passwords, reducing the incidence of online crime, and increasing people's security while online.
实际上,在以“言论自由”著称的美国,社会上同样存在着实行网络实名制的呼吁。如今,越来越多的主流媒体网站要求网友先注册,然后才能留言。2010年,游戏网站“暴雪”还要求用户使用真实姓名在论坛上发言。
. . . .
除了社会上的呼声,美国政府也在考虑推动“网络身份证”计划。2011年初,奥巴马政府提出了建立数码身份认证系统的设想,使今后美国网民收发电子邮件、登录社交网站和进行网络购物等活动时,可以不必输入用户名和密码,减少网络犯罪的发生,提高人们上网的安全性。
South Korea

In the past China's state-run media had turned to South Korea to build its argument that that China's Internet users should accept a real name Internet. For example, on August 13, 2009, the Guangming Daily published an editorial entitled "The Time is Ripe to Implement an Internet Real Name System" (实行网络实名制时机已经成熟). An excerpt:
Fang Binxing offered an example saying, in 2002 South Korea launched an Internet real name system in order to protect citizens' rights, reputations, and economic interests, and this allowed South Korea to become both one of the world's countries with the most thorough real name systems as well as one of the world's countries with the highest level of Internet security. More than that, the Internet real name system promoted the rapid development of South Korea's online banking and online commerce, and attracted a large amount of investment in online enterprises, further driving constant improvements in South Korea's online enterprises. Fang Binxing believes that this gives China excellent experience and an effective example of how to implement its own Internet real name system.
方滨兴举例说,韩国从2002年起推动实施网络实名制,以保护公民的隐私权、名誉权和经济权益,这使得韩国成为全球贯彻实名制最彻底的国家之一,也是网络安全程度最高的国家之一。不仅如此,网络实名制还促进了韩国网上银行、网络消费等的快速发展,吸引了大批资金进入网络产业,带动了韩国网络产业不断升级。方滨兴认为,这给中国实施网络实名制提供了很好的借鉴和有效的示范。
More recently, in December 2011, the Global Times published an editorial entitled "Weibo Regulations a Step on the Right Path." An excerpt:
The new regulations, in theory, are pertinent to solving weibo's urgent problems without harming its good effects. South Korea has already ordered real-name registration for the Internet.
 That same month, Xinhua also sought to reassure readers that this was "Common Practice":
China is not the only country to resort to real-name registration to monitor the Internet. The government of the Republic of Korea started to implement a real-name authentication system on its major websites in 2007 to prevent Internet violence, fraud or malicious information spreading.
In 2009, the system was expanded to cover all websites with daily visits of over 100,000.
But in the year after those editorials were written, the Constitutional Court of South Korea issued its decision in the application of Sohn et. al. unanimously holding that Korea's Internet real name systems were unconstitutional because "they infringe upon freedom of expression and autonomous control of personal data."

On August 24, 2012, the day after the South Korean court issued its decision, Xinhua and the China Daily published an editorial entitled "No Need to Be Overly Concerned About Korea Abolishing Its Real Name System" (不必对韩国取消实名制过分惊诧) by Wu Dingping (吴定平). That editorial stated that South Korea's system had been China's "reference model." It went on to say:
Why did Korea's love affair with its real name system come to an end? Fundamentally, there were no actual problems with the real name system, rather the main issue was that Korea had insufficient protections for personal privacy, and this led to significant pressure on, and resistance to, the real name system, and led ultimately to a fatal attack on it. Comparatively speaking, China has done a better job in this area.
韩国实名制为何“始乱终弃”、半途而废?本质而言不是实名制本身存在问题,而主要是缘于韩国在个人隐私保护方面做得不够到位,给实名制带来巨大的压力和阻力,最终产生致命性的打击。相比较而言,我国在这方面做得相对较好。
See: http://blog.feichangdao.com/2012/10/when-it-comes-to-real-name-registration.html

On January 2, 2013, Xinhua published an editorial under the name "Shi Yi" (石一). Baidu's Baike has an entry for someone with that name - the CEO of Avazu Inc. - but its not clear whether thas person was in fact the editorial's author. The editorial was entitled "Users Registering With True Identification Information is Not the Same as South Korea's Real Name System" (用户真实身份信息注册与韩国实名制并非一回事). Some excerpts:
In order to safeguard the security of personal information, the Decision requires: "When entering into agreements or confirming the provision of services with users, network service providers who provide users network connection services, conduct network access procedures for fixed and mobile telephones, or who provide users with information issuing services shall require users to provide truthful identity information." The purpose of this legislative provision is to safeguard users' online information from being disclosed, falsified, or misused. However, some Internet users have compared it with South Korea's "online real name system," and believe that China should take as a warning the fact that "South Korea's online real name system has already failed." This author believes that this mischaracterizes and misunderstands the Decision, and that China's user real ID information registration information system has some fundamental differences with South Korea's "online real name system."
为保护个人信息安全,《决定》要求“网络服务提供者为用户办理网站接入服务,办理固定电话、移动电话等入网手续,或者为用户提供信息发布服务,应当在与用户签订协议或者确认提供服务时,要求用户提供真实身份信息”。这一规定的立法目的是保护用户网络信息不被泄露、篡改和滥用。但是,也有一些网民将此与韩国“网络实名制”相联系,认为“韩国网络实名制已经失败”,中国应以此为鉴。笔者认为,这是对《决定》的误读和臆测,我国用户真实身份信息注册制度与韩国“网络实名制”有着本质区别。
The editorial went on to discuss three problems experienced by South Korea's systems, and how China will avoid them:
  • In South Korea web sites were allowed to retain user's information, but in China "When a user is asked by a web site to carry out identification verification, the web site will redirect to a page on the verification agency's web site. The personal information that the user submits will be verified on the Internet ID verification platform, and not through the registering web site."
  • In South Korea the verification agency was a commercial organization, and laws and policies were perfunctorily enforced. In China, "the Internet Society of China will establish a unified Internet real ID information verification platform . . . . the Internet Society of China is non-profit industry organization, and is under the responsibility of the MIIT, and is subject to more oversight and management."
  • In South Korea the verification agency charged fees, and this influenced web sites' "enthusiasm." In China, web sites will not be charged fees.
The editorial went on to say: "It was precisely because of these systemic design inadequacies that Internet users' private information security could not be effectively guaranteed, and this was the basic reason why South Korea's 'online real name system' failed."

The editorial made no mention of the South Korean Constitutional Court August decision regarding South Korea's real name system, or that the explicitly said it was NOT going to rule on the privacy issue. The Court's decision stated:
Applicant Sohn et al. further assert that the mandatory verification of user identity restricts bulletin board user’s right to privacy as it obliges the user to disclose the personal data such as name,resident’s registration number, etc. However, we have already explained that the mandatory verification of user identity restricts user’s right to autonomous control of personal data, which is a concrete manifestation of the right to privacy. As we shall decide whether the restriction of user’s right to autonomous control of personal data amounts to infringement, there is no need for us to rule upon the alleged infringement of the right to privacy.
Instead, the Court said that "the focal issues of this case are whether the restrictions imposed by the mandatory verification of user identity are disproportionate and excessive."

Ultimately, the South Korean Constitutional Court found as follows:
We find that the mandatory verification of user identity stipulated in the provisions under review operates as prior restriction of freedom of expression. It discourages expression in general and thus restrains constitutionally protected speech and it hampers free formation of public opinion which is at the heart of democracy. The provisions under review impose excessive restrictions and infringe upon freedom of expression and autonomous control of personal data of Applicant Sohn et al. and upon freedom of press, etc. of Applicant Company.
An English translation of the Korean Court's decision by Professor Keechang Kim, Korea University Law School is available here: http://openweb.or.kr/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Korean-Constitutional-Court-declares-real-name-verification-unconstitutional.pdf

Friday, August 15, 2014

China's Real Name Internet Part 3: The People's Daily's 10 Days of Front Page Editorials

By far the most prolific publisher of pro-real name regulation propaganda was the People's Daily. In the last two weeks of December that paper published at least ten editorials on its front page espousing the need for new Internet regulations:
  • December 18: "The Internet Is Not Beyond the Law" (网络不是法外之地)
  • December 20: "The Internet Needs to Operate in Accordance with the Law" (网络需要依法运行)
  • December 22: "Internet Development Needs to be 'Grabbed with Two Hands'" (网络发展需要"两手抓")
  • December 23: "There Can Be Health Only Where There is a Bottom Line." (有底线,才健康)
  • December 24: "Words and Deeds on the Internet Should Comply with the Law's Bottom Line" (网络言行应遵循法律底线)
  • December 25: "Further the Internet's 'Positive Forces' Through Rule by Law" (以法治涵养网络"正能量")
  • December 26: "Virtual Spaces Can't Get Away From 'Real World Rules'" (虚拟空间离不开"现实规则")
  • December 28: "Open Platforms Cannot Exist Without 'Legal Boundaries'" (开放平台不能没有"合法边界")
  • December 29: "Safeguard the Healthy and Orderly Operation of the Internet in Accordance with the Law" (依法保障网络健康有序运行)
  • December 30: "Only by Moving Safely Can We Move Freely" (安全流动,才能自由流动)

 

Similar Wording

The editorials were short (around 400 characters) and used similar, and in some cases identical, language. For example, four of these editorials used the term "border":
  • December 20
    • "Delineate the borders of behavior" (厘定行为边界)
  • December 24
    • "Words and actions have borders" (言行是有边界的)
    • "Rational borders of freedom" (自由的合理边界)
    • "Establish the borders of responsibility" (确立责任边界)
  • December 28
    • "Borders of legality" (合法边界 - used three times)
    • "Demarcate the borders of online words and actions" (划定网络言行的边界)
    • "Establish the borders" (确立边界)
  • January 10
    • "Social life has borders, and the Internet world has a bottom line" (社会生活有边界,网络世界有底线)
Other state-sponsored media outlets employed the "border" metaphor as well. A Global Times' January 9 editorial told readers that "every country's news reports have their own borders and forbidden zones (各国的新闻报道都有各自的边界和禁区), while a Guangming Daily's December 19 editorial used a phrase that would become the title of the People's Daily January 10 editorial: "Social life has borders, and the Internet world has a bottom line." (社会生活有边界,网络世界有底线)

In another example of employing the exact same phrasing, three of the People's Daily editorials (December 18, 20, and 30) and one Guangming Daily editorial (December 19) used the Chinese idiom for "public security and good morals." (公序良俗)

 

Real Name Editorials?

 

Each of the editorials had a different author, but because the People's Daily did not provide any description of the authors' affiliations or qualifications, it was difficult, if not impossible, to determine the author's actual identity. For example, the December 18 editorial was authored by someone named Mo Lvlv (莫津津). The People's Daily has been publishing editorials on a variety of topics with that byline since at least 2005, when it published an editorial on page 10  of the June 7 edition entitled "Hangzhou: Objections Arise to Social Security, to Be Settled in a Hearing" (杭州:低保有异议 听证来定夺). In that editorial the People's Daily referred to Mo as "Yunnan, Kunming, Mo Lvlv" (云南昆明市 莫津津).

On August 30 (服刑先学《弟子规》) and November 9, 2007 (浙江绍兴县 跑车巡警,半月叫停), the People's Daily web site included articles with quotes from a "Yunnan, Kunming, Mo Lvlv" (云南昆明市 莫津津) as well as a "Hunan, Huaihua, Mo Lvlv" (湖南怀化市 莫津津).

In 2010 and 2011, the People's Daily was referring to Mo simply as "Internet user Mo Lvlv" (网友莫津津) in the editorials in which they quoted him (or her):
The People's Daily's December 20 editorial was entitled: "The Internet Needs to Operate in Accordance with the Law" (网络需要依法运行). This was the first in the series to raise privacy issues. The author was Kong Fangbin (孔方斌), and there is no indication that anyone with this name had ever published anything else, anywhere else. Some excerpts:
This is the state of the Internet. Even as there is positive, active, and healthy information flows, there is also rumor mongering, fraud, and defamation mixed in. If we take a laissez-faire attitude it will threaten public security, harm the interests of the average citizen, and bring with it severe social harm.
. . . .
The Internet needs not only "self-cleansing," but also a system for third-party discipline, demarkation of the borders of behavior, and increased oversight in accordance with the law. It is necessary to keep irresponsible rumor mongering in check, keep personal information from being disclosed, and prevent and attack digital crimes from pornography to fraud.
In 1977, America enacted legislation on computer systems, Japan has implemented an indirect real name system, and Germany blocks illegal web page content . . . for the Internet to progress, the law must move forward as well. 
这就是互联网的常态。在正面、积极、健康的信息洪流中,也有谣言、欺诈、诽谤等等混杂其间,对其听之任之,势必威胁公众安全,损害老百姓利益,带来严重的社会危害。
. . . .
网络不仅需要“自我净化”,也需要他律机制,厘定行为边界,依法加以监管。管住不负责任的谣言,管住个人信息的泄露,防止和打击从色情到诈骗的数字化犯罪,是很有必要的。
美国1977年就为计算机系统立法,日本实行网络间接实名制,德国屏蔽不合法网页内容……互联网要向前发展,法律必须如影随形地跟进。
On December 22, the People's Daily front page editorial was entitled "Internet Development Needs to be 'Grabbed with Two Hands'" (网络发展需要'两手抓'). The author was Yu Yang (于洋). Baidu's Baike has an entry for a woman by that name who is an Olympic badminton gold medalist.  Some excerpts from the editorial:
Over the last 20 years China's Internet has gone from weak to flourishing, and much of this is owing to the passion, creativity, and participation of Internet users. However, as something that grew spontaneously, the spread of the Internet has some peculiarities that are not easy to ignore, such as the fact that many Internet users only browse information that they themselves need, only pay attention to views that they agree with, and information screening can easily produce extreme public reaction, as well as irrational discussion and uncivilized behavior.
20多年来,中国互联网从弱小到兴盛,网民们的热情、创意和参与功不可没。但是,在自发状态下,网络传播呈现出的一些特点也不容忽视,比如很多网民只浏览自己需要的信息,只关注自己认同的观点,信息的过滤很容易产生群体观点的极端化,也容易产生不理性的讨论和不文明的行为。
The next editorial was published on December 23 and entitled "There Can Be Health Only Where There is a Bottom Line." (有底线,才健康) Some excerpts:
Being open does not mean people can behave unscrupulously. Being free is not the same thing as running around cursing people, and sharing information does not mean arbitrarily disclosing other people's private affairs and spreading rumors everywhere. Unless there is basic rational judgment, social order, and legal restraints, this kind of of Internet will only sink into chaos and will find itself at a fork in the road, where it cannot develop in a healthy manner, much less become the vital new frontier that Internet users hope for.
Long ago foreign countries made the Internet into an "information superhighway." When driving on a highway legal restrictions and driver's ethical instincts are both required. For the Internet superhighway to be orderly and safe, it similarly needs both ethical self-discipline and legal regulation.  
开放性并不意味着可以恣意妄为,自由表达并不等于四处骂街,信息共享更不是随意泄露别人隐私、到处散播谣言。没有基本的理性判断、社会秩序和法治约束,这样的网络只会陷入混乱、走上歧途,不可能健康发展,更不是网民心中那片充满生机活力的新天地。
很早以前,国外就把互联网比作“信息高速公路”。在高速公路上驱车,法律约束和驾驶员的道德自觉缺一不可,网络信息高速公路的有序安全,同样需要道德自律和法律规范。
The author of this piece, Jian Mandu (简满屯), had previously authored or been quoted in at least four other People's Daily editorials, and was only identified as "a reader":
The next day, December 24, the People's Daily front page once again included a similarly-titled editorial: "Words and Deeds on the Internet Should Comply with the Law's Bottom Line" (网络言行应遵循法律底线). The name of the author of that piece, Guo Sheng (郭胜), is somewhat common (including a police officer in Chongqing and a historical figure from the Han Dynasty), so its impossible to determine who the author really is. Some excerpts:
If someone defames and insults others in the name of "freedom," and harm others commercial credibility or their product's reputation, then this is in fact illegal, even criminal. If someone clings to "justice" as an excuse to claim the ends justifies the means, even to the point of "lying to obscure the truth," this is similarly irresponsible.
During last year's riots in England, Premier Cameron once exclaimed: "Free flow of information can be used for good, but it can also be used for bad." The Internet has given us greater freedom, and has also given us greater responsibility. Only by establishing the boundaries of responsibility, stipulating the standards of what is "lawful" and was is "unlawful," will we be able to better enjoy freedom and protect rights, only then will we better promote progress for the nation and society. 
如果以“自由”之名诽谤、侮辱他人,损害别人的商业信誉、商品声誉,这实质上是违法甚至犯罪;如果持着“正义”的理由,只问目的不择手段,甚至搞所谓“谎言倒逼真相”,这同样是不负责任。
去年英国骚乱后,首相卡梅伦曾感慨:“信息自由流通可以用来做好事,但同样可以用来干坏事。” 网络给予了我们更多自由,也给予了我们更大责任。确立责任边界,厘定“法”与“非法”的标准,我们才能更好地享受自由、保护权利,才能更好地推动国家与社会的进步。
The December 25 front page editorial was entitled "Further the Internet's 'Positive Forces' Through Rule by Law" (以法治涵养网络"正能量"). The author, Wang Zhaolei (王兆雷), appears to be a reporter with the People's Daily. Some excerpts:
In modern society, the ultimate purpose of any law is to safeguard citizens' rights, freedoms, and dignity. In this sense, legislation should not be viewed narrowly as "controlling," nor should Internet legislation be viewed as being in opposition to Internet development.
. . . .
Strengthening Internet legislation will not only put fear into the hearts of online criminals, it will also provide a legal basis for safeguarding the rights and intersts of Internet users, and channel Internet administration onto the path of the legal system. 
在现代社会,任何法律的最终目的,都是为了保护公民的权利、自由与尊严。在这个意义上,不应将立法狭隘地理解为某种“管控”,更不应将网络立法与网络发展对立起来。
. . . .
加强网络立法,不仅是对网络违法犯罪的震慑,更为网民维护自身权益提供了法律基础,将网络管理纳入了法制轨道。
The December 27 front page editorial was entitled: "Virtual Spaces Can't Get Away From 'Real World Rules'" (虚拟空间离不开"现实规则"). Some excerpts:
In recent years, the pornographic, fraudulent, rumor mongering, defamatory, and paid commentary content that has frequently appeared on the Internet has not only disturbed online order, it has also interfered with people's offline lives. Establishing and perfecting "real world rules" for the virtual spaces that will promote online civility, heath, and development has become a consensus and an aspiration.
As early as 1996, America clearly determined that the Internet world was "in need of oversight to the same degree as the real world." In Germany, it is impossible to open content promoting Nazi ideology online. In England, the police require Internet cafes to retain knowledge of online activities. The experience of these countries that have a developed Internet should give us inspiration. When it comes to public realms like the Internet, the earlier rules are set up the more mature the development. The sooner we are able to promote the good and abolish the bad, the more we can keep "negative effects" in check, the more we can set free "proper energies." 
这些年,网络平台上不时出现的淫秽色情、网络诈骗、造谣诽谤、网络水军,不仅扰乱了网络秩序,也对人们的现实生活形成了干扰。建立和完善虚拟空间的“现实规则”,推动网络文明健康发展成为共识和心声。
早在1996年,美国就明确将互联网世界定性为“与真实世界一样需要进行监控”的领域。在德国,宣扬纳粹思想的内容在互联网上无法打开。英国警察要求网吧保留对上网者行为的知情权。这些互联网发达国家的经验给我们以启示。在网络这一公共领域中,规则建立越早、发展越成熟,我们就越能兴利除弊、越能抑制“负效应”,释放“正能量”。
The author, Jiang Liuyi (江柳依), had also published at least four other editorials in the People's Daily in 2012:
The following day, December 28, the People's Daily front page editorial entitled "Open Platforms Cannot Exist Without 'Legal Boundaries'" (开放平台不能没有"合法边界"),was authored by Ren Fang (任芳), which is also the name of a People's Daily reporter. Some excerpts:
The good is often buried beneath the bad, with private information being disclosed, rumor mongering and defamation, and infringing and fraudulent actions taking place all the time. In the first half of this year alone China has dealt with 13,900 phishing web sites.
The more open something is, the more it needs to have clearly delineated rules that are commonly obeyed, and borders for Internet speech and action that clearly demarcated. In fact, the history of Internet development is one of constant "border drawing."
这其中往往泥沙俱下,隐私泄露,谣言诽谤,侵权和诈骗活动时有发生。仅今年上半年,我国就处理钓鱼网站1.39万个。 
越是开放,就越需要确立共同遵守的规则、划定网络言行的边界。实际上,互联网发展的历史,就是不断“确立边界”的历史。
The next day, December 29, the People's Daily published a much longer editorial on its front page entitled "Safeguard the Healthy and Orderly Operation of the Internet in Accordance with the Law" (依法保障网络健康有序运行), and this time the editorial was attributed to  "a columnist." Some excerpts:
On December 28, the 30th Meeting of the 11th Plenum of the National People's Congress Standing Committee enacted the Decision Regarding Strengthening Network Information Protection, conforming to the trends of Internet development, the popular will, and the wishes of the people.
. . . .
All circles of society have been vociferous in their call to formulate relevant laws to regulate the collection and utilization of citizen's personal information, stringently punish illegal criminal online activities, safeguard the legal rights and interests of Internet users, and ensure the normal, healthy, and orderly operation of the Internet. The decision of the National People's Congress Standing Committee to strengthen protection of online information comports with the hopes and wishes of people, is an important measure for adapting to the circumstances, and is a concrete manifestation of safeguarding human rights in accordance with the law. It is both very necessary and very timely. 
12月28日,十一届全国人大常委会第三十次会议表决通过了关于加强网络信息保护的决定,顺应了互联网的发展趋势,合乎民意,顺乎民心。
. . . .
社会各界强烈呼吁尽快制定相关法律,规范收集、使用公民个人信息的活动,严厉惩处网络违法犯罪行为,维护网络用户的合法权益,保障网络规范、健康、有序运行。这次全国人大常委会通过关于加强网络信息保护的决定,符合广大人民群众的期盼和愿望,是适应形势发展需要的重要举措,是依法保障人权的具体体现,非常必要和及时。
On December 30, the People's Daily front page editorial was entitled "Only by Moving Safely Can We Move Freely" (安全流动,才能自由流动). The author's name was given as De Sheng (德胜) - the Chinese characters for "morality" and "victory." Some excerpts:
It can be seen that there can be no discussion of "freedom" without security. The flood of illegal harmful information will certainly harm citizens' legal rights and interests, jeopardize online public order and morality, and harm the public interest. In order to fully release the bounty of information flows, it is necessary to eliminate the hidden dangers to information security, and this has already become the common consensus of all circles of society, and the appeals for legislation on information security are growing louder day by day. 
可见,没有安全,“自由”也就无从谈起。非法有害信息的泛滥,势必伤害公民的合法权益、破坏网络的公序良俗、损害社会的公共利益。为了充分释放信息流动的红利,就必须消除信息安全的隐患,这已成为社会各界的基本共识,信息安全立法的呼吁之声也日益强烈。
On January 10, 2013, the People's Daily published an editorial entitled "Internet Expression Also Needs to be Lawful" (网络表达同样应正当合法) by Mao Lei (毛磊 - which is also the name of a People's Daily reporter). This was the first People's Daily editorial in the cycle to mention the Decision's "real name registration" requirement. Some excerpts:
Expression on Internet platforms can produce two-sided results, besides legal expression, there are also people who may use the Internet to undertake insults, defamation, fraud, pornography, and other illegal activities.
Strengthening Internet management will realize the "unification of rights and duties." On the one hand it will safeguard citizens' freedom of speech and right to expression. On the other hand it will require citizens to take responsibility for the content of their expression. The fundamental utility of Internet back-end real name registration lies in increasing the costs associated with spreading rumors by putting a sense of fear into those who would spread rumors. If rumors are allowed to spread, then in fact it is freedom of speech that is the ultimate victim.
Social life has boundaries, and the Internet has a bottom line. Everyone knows that "freedom" is relative, and in the online world as in the real world, there is not absolute freedom. 
在网络平台上的表达,可能产生两面性,即除了合法表达外,还有人可能利用网络进行侮辱、诽谤、诈骗、色情等非法活动。
加强网络管理,体现了“权利义务相统一”。一方面要保护公民的言论自由表达权利,另一方面要求公民对自己表达的内容负责。网络后台实名的根本作用在于,让造谣传谣的成本变得高昂,震慑企图造谣传谣的人。如果任谣言传播,恰恰最后受伤害的就是言论自由。
社会生活有边界,网络世界有底线。众所周知,“自由”是相对的,网络世界与现实社会一样,并不存在绝对自由。