ANONsmallf.JPGBad news for China's 17.5m bloggers. The government wants bloggers to register with their real names because “some bloggers anonymously disseminate irresponsible and untrue information via the internet,” according to Xinhua.

This apparently creates “very bad influences not only to individuals but to society as a whole.”

The Ministry of Information Industry has not yet decided how and when it will require China's bloggers to register their real names. However, a real-name system will be an “unavoidable choice,” according to an official with China's Internet Society of China, which is affiliated to the MII.

In an attempt to appear even-handed, Xinhua quotes one netizen called Xiaosha who believes the new system will curtail free speech, and another, called Tinghai, who believes the measure will help solve a whole range of China's internet ills including scams, IPR infringements and porn.

I can already hear the west's screams of outcry at this proposed measure. But its worth keeping things in perspective.

Isaac Mao, a popular Shanghai-based blogger and one of China 's first blog activists, tells Red Herring that enforcing a real-name system would be extremely difficult because of the countless sites which would have to be policed.

Chinese blog-hosting companies already employ hordes of people to censor content on the blogs they host. The move to real-name system, even if it could be enforced, would simply cause controversial blogs to shift to foreign-hosted sites.

In the west, online anonymity is not the cherished right that many netizens believe. Bloggers who want a blog of any size have to pay for it, and that means supplying the real name and address shown on your credit card. ISPs can be obliged to turn over IP address records and customer details to law enforcement agencies pursuing serious crimes like child pornography.

Many western countries are considering requiring the registration of pre-paid mobile phones to combat their widespread use in organised crime.

A timely plug for the second Chinese Blogger Conference, to be held 28-29 October, 2006 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Attendees are encouraged to register — although not necessarily with their real name.

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