The Chinese government has quietly instructed news websites there to require new users and commenters to log on under their true identities, the New York Times reports. Netizens in China have long resisted the so-called “real name system,” which the government claims engenders “social responsibility” and greater “civility.” Those opposed fear a more sinister purpose, and news portals report a drop-off in traffic.
The government rolled out its program in secret, most likely to avoid the widespread domestic and international uproar that greeted previous Internet rules, like the mandatory inclusion of anti-pornography filters on new computers. Hackers proved that those programs could also monitor political postings. Editors say they were forced to comply with the new rule. “We had no recourse to challenge it,” says one. Though the new system may be simpler, authorities have always been able to trace identities through IP addresses.