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 -

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:

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.
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.
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.
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.
On July 23, 2014, the Chinese government's website 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).