back to article China to identify commentards with real‑name policy

China's Internet administration has issued an edict that any platform that allows users to post comments must register their real-world identities first. The South China Morning Post spotted this note (in Chinese*) from the Cyberspace Administration of China, which imposes the requirement that users post comments under their …

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  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    We will all get there. Eventually

    Sooner or later we will all get there eventually.

    It is a reality. The anonymity of the early Internet has long become faux anonymity. Today, it is simply a matter of how much resource does the opponent have to unveil your identity. All this does is decrease the amount of resource the authorities need to deploy to the level of "common plod with a search warrant".

    It is simply a matter of time until our side of the globe follows suit.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: We will all get there. Eventually

      When it comes to the UK you will have to scan in two utility bills to prove who you are .

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Scanning Utility bills.

        Hands up who still gets their bills sent by snailmail these days?

        Hey you at the back... Why?

        I had to produce one last week when I rented a carpet cleaner for the day. Had to rummage for one that wasn't at least 6 months old.

        The only one I could find was a Water Bill. Everything else is pretty much electronic these days.

        1. Credas Silver badge

          Re: Scanning Utility bills.

          I refuse repeated requests form one credit card company and the local water utility to switch to electronic billing solely because of this kind of stupid "paper copies of bills" authentication requirement. What it's meant to prove, other than an unfounded faith in the security of the Royal Mail delivery system, I have no idea.

        2. Martin Summers Silver badge

          Re: Scanning Utility bills.

          "The only one I could find was a Water Bill. Everything else is pretty much electronic these days."

          Anywhere that has requested ID from me have been quite happy to take my printed bills as proof of address.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Scanning Utility bills.

            Anywhere that has requested ID from me have been quite happy to take my printed bills as proof of address.

            Home printed or mailed-out, it's quite bizarre that a decade or two after high quality cameras, scanners and printers became cheaply available, flunkies all over the globe take a sheet of paper purporting to be a utility bill as proof of anything.

            1. Martin Summers Silver badge

              Re: Scanning Utility bills.

              "Home printed or mailed-out"

              Home printed, I should have made that clearer. It is ludicrous that they will accept it as proof of address but I guess that's all there is really. I think most places just use them as a backup to the passport or driving licence.

          2. gandalfcn

            Re: Scanning Utility bills.

            "Anywhere that has requested ID from me have been quite happy to take my printed bills as proof of address."

            Your point being?

        3. Toc-H-Lamp

          Re: Scanning Utility bills.

          I told eon to go back to sending paper bills. Their system used to email me the fact that a bill was waiting to be read and i had to log in to their absolutely crap system to view it. I'm sure the password was reset after x weeks of me not logging in and my billing cycle was x+1.

        4. gandalfcn

          Re: Scanning Utility bills.

          It is ironic that government pushes the use of electronic billing and paying and yet still demands proof in the form of utility bills etc.

          Similarly with insurance companies, pension funds and so on ad infinitum.

          On a sightly different note, one utility co. I had problems with went incandescent when I provided a copy of my current passport as proof of identity, at their request, which passport was different from the one I had provided about 18 years previously. One has to wonder at the wonders of bureaucracy.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We will all get there. Eventually

        "When it comes to the UK you will have to scan in two utility bills to prove who you are"

        No problem, there are plenty I can choose from, just need to get there just after postie.

    2. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: We will all get there. Eventually

      Are you worried we will all find out that you aren't really Voland's right hand?

      On the plus side we might get to find out who aManfromMars is. Would be quite a shock if he turns out to not be a bot.

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: We will all get there. Eventually

        He might be a she....

        The handle being a cunning ruse to throw you off the scent

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: We will all get there. Eventually

          ..you'll be telling us (s)he/it isn't from Mars next.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We will all get there. Eventually

          There is no spacing within the name, which means the leading A in Amanfrommars1 should not be considered "the indefinite article", but a prefix. The prefix a- indicates negation, or "not", so therefore "not manfrommars1".

          Further deconstruction is left as an exercise for the reader.

    3. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Re: We will all get there. Eventually

      > The anonymity of the early Internet

      That did not really exist even back then. Someone with enough motivation and resources could unmask you. May even have been easier in the early days, when "security" (what little there was) was sloppier than now. For example, discussion sites rarely used SSL, and fixed IP:s were more common.

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: We will all get there. Eventually

        "That did not really exist even back then. Someone with enough motivation and resources could unmask you."

        Indeed, all you had to do sometimes was Finger them to find out more about them.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We will all get there. Eventually

        Nope.

        Nobody outside of the US collected anything until *much* later.

        And dynamic IPs changed more as people used to dial up.

        1. MacroRodent Silver badge

          Re: We will all get there. Eventually

          > Nobody outside of the US collected anything until *much* later.

          Hah! Back in the 1990's, I recall finding all kinds of site log files carelessly exposed to the world, when looking with AltaVista for the naively branded browser identification string of the company where I worked at the time. Maybe the spooks did not collect data, but they did not need to... it was there for the taking.

  2. LDS Silver badge
    Joke

    "but doesn't explain how to obtain credentials."

    It's a test. You need to hack it to get credentials. If you do it. they'll know you're among the ones who shouldn't read it.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Anon because ...

    El Reg would presumably release your identity or mine to the spooks if presented with a court order. As would other sites.

    Mainstream sites from the BBC to the Torygraph have become a lot stricter in their requirement to register over the years. Should we be surprised that Baidu do likewise?

    On a related note, Lavabit was so unusual as to be newsworthy.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

    Shit

    I'll have to change my name.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shit

      What happens when they notice thousands of posts from "Loger Labbit"?

    2. Nolveys Silver badge

      Re: Shit

      I'll have to change my name.

      An acquaintance of mine is named "Jim Smith". I'm a bit envious.

  6. Ole Juul Silver badge

    is this for real?

    Real names are often so common that there is not much identity in them compared to the colourful nicks that people use, so presumably there will be something like social insurance number or passport involved in this identity scheme. And you probably won't be able to connect with Tor either.

    If words are that hurtful and difficult to deal with, then it's probably a good idea to lock yourself in a quiet room, turn of the TV and radio, and disconnect the computer and phone. Seriously - these guys are sick.

    1. JimC Silver badge

      Re: is this for real?

      Oh for sure. Its pretty much inevitable. In governments eyes the harm done - and perhaps even more importantly the bad press generated - by the misuse of anonymity is obvious and widespread. The genuine social benefits are on a far smaller scale and in any case are greatest for those living under repressive regimes, who themselves are the list likely to tolerate anonymity. Thus sooner or later the desire to readily identify (mis)users of the net will vastly outweigh any pushback from the privacy campaigners, who are readily labelled as "political weirdos who want to protect paedophiles and trollers".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: is this for real?

        "Thus sooner or later the desire to readily identify (mis)users of the net will vastly outweigh any pushback from the privacy campaigners, [...]"

        The problem is that "misuse" will come to mean anything which is against the current government's "interests". There is a definite trend towards nationalistic authoritarian regimes that is a slippery slope in the wrong hands.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Real names are often so common

      Until the governments start to assign them.

      Winston Smith 6079

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: is this for real?

      If words are that hurtful and difficult to deal with, then it's probably a good idea to lock yourself in a quiet room, turn of the TV and radio, and disconnect the computer and phone.

      That's just wishful thinking. In real world, those that are hurt would have you turn yourself into the nearest gulag for re-education.

    4. murakh
      Black Helicopters

      Re: is this for real?

      It is a bit misleading saying "Real Name", in actuality it is "Real Name" AND national identity number. Many of the Chinese apps (chat, social networking etc) have been implementing this over the last few months already.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the near future

    Computer: Please insert your real identity to register this account.

    Me: Ok, no problem.

    Me: (Type real name).

    Computer: I'm sorry. There are already 2,147,483,647 'real name' registered on this site.

    Me: wtf... (Type "Kim Jong Un")

    Computer: Registration complete. Welcome to this website.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: In the near future

      "Computer: I'm sorry. There are already 2,147,483,647 'real name' registered on this site."

      So you're saying your real name is Michael E Mouse?

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: In the near future

        Amanda Treefield is a great one to use here

    2. JimC Silver badge

      Re: In the near future

      Oh dear, a tad naive are we today? The real name will have to link back identifiably to your ISP account, and your ISP account will have to link back identifiably to a real person, and we'll be in a whole world of PITA bureaucracy.

    3. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

      It could be worse...

      Me: (Type real name).

      Computer: Name too short

      Me: effingtwat

      Computer: Registration complete. Welcome to this website, effingtwat

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Adam 1 Silver badge

    匿名懦夫

    Coming soon to elreg.cn

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: 匿名懦夫

      我知道你是谁

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 匿名懦夫

        谁 <- Is it just me or does that looks like a figure coming to kick your front door in?

  10. Nick Z

    Giving more power to the government will make it less responsive to the people

    When people feel free to say whatever they want, then this provides useful feedback for the government about how well it's doing with the people and gives the government an opportunity to change, before it's too late.

    The main advantage of democracy isn't that it's nice and treats people well. Some of the worst atrocities have been committed by democracies, such as the genocide of Native Indians in North America, slavery for African blacks, and the atomic bombing of civilians during World War II.

    Democracies can be just as nasty as dictatorships. But democracies have relatively bloodless revolutions, compared to those of dictatorships. When people get upset enough, then they organize well enough together to throw out the establishment and change the government through the electoral process.

    This mechanism doesn't exist in dictatorships. And that's why they need to be responsive in a different way. Or else powerful dictators become arrogant and people so upset, that it all ends in a bloody revolution and destruction of the country.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Giving more power to the government will make it less responsive to the people

      At least dropping the bombs made the dictatorial Japanese government listen to their people dying for once. Check out the numbers killed by fire bombing and starvation as well as the number of Chinese the Japanese killed then ask yourself why the Chinese government is so keen to control their people.

      It is amusing to think the head of the most powerful country, a democracy, says what he likes when he likes, the twit. Perhaps there is something in this control of the people thing after all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Giving more power to the government will make it less responsive to the people

        Bugger off with that fascist comment, Chairman M.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Giving more power to the government will make it less responsive to the people

      "When people get upset enough, then they organize well enough together to throw out the establishment and change the government through the electoral process."

      Unfortunately they then elect a populist party with a charismatic leader who promises the impossible. As soon as they are in power they then quickly rule by decree to establish a true dictatorship.

  11. Christian Berger Silver badge

    This is of course for their "scoring system"

    They currently introduce a scoring system where everybody gets a score from 0 to 255 depending on what they do. Then scrarse resources (like flats or kindergarden places) can be allocated based on the scores of the applicants.

    Now obviously this is a nightmare situation, nobody, including me, would want here, so let me play the devil's advocate and defend it here a bit:

    China is a huge country with over a billion inhabitants. You don't want it to become unstable in any way, as that would be bad for the people. Civil wars are no piece of cake. So for the greater good of the people systems are put in place to make the system more stable as a whole. Such a scoring system does this in a soft way while staying as "fair" as possible.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: This is of course for their "scoring system"

      "They currently introduce a scoring system where everybody gets a score from 0 to 255 depending on what they do."

      We currently have a system where people are assigned a numerical value from about £7000 to several hundred million a year based on factors like what school they went to and what Daddy did. This then determines access to places in good schools, where you can live, whether or not you can travel abroad, and in fact your life expectancy.

      The Chinese are just honest about it, whereas we pretend it's a "meritocracy". I present to you Jacob Rees-Mogg as exhibit 1.

  12. nickx89

    People needs privacy sometimes

    People must register so the Chinese government can force websites and other platforms to hand over data up on ask? There are thousands of users with similar names, so the commenting system will take more changes that is an extra effort.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: People needs privacy sometimes

      Of course. It's not just nicely asking to use one's real name, but ensuring they do, meaning by mobile phone or using other indirect or direct proof of identity.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: People needs privacy sometimes

        They will tie the name to their National Identity number as printed on their Residents Identity Card, the same as they do in Spain and I am sure many other countries.Here even when signing for a delivery they will ask for the NIF number to be put with the signature.

    2. PhilipN Silver badge

      Re: People needs privacy sometimes

      “They” may not care whether or not you register. Fact is those who don’t will be found, targeted and have their traffic monitored more closely. And if push comes to shove they will be the ones who get (what the leftie media used to call in the ‘70’s) the 4 o’clock knock.

      To be safe, assume “they” know who you are already, play in the open, and avoid certain words, such as ¥€£_^[]{} - hang on a sec, it’s the front door.

      ‘Course we all know (don’t we?) that the online services which prosper in the P.R.C. are the ones which automatically share everything?

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