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. 
. . . .
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.
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.  
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. 
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. 
. . . .
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." 
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."
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. 
. . . .
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. 
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.