China: blog providers sign "self-discipline" act to nix anonymous blogging

Here's a snip from a press release issued by the free speech advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Fronteres, or RSF), about a "self-discipline pact" reportedly signed by 20 or more of the largest blog service providers in China. Participating companies are said to include Yahoo.cn! and MSN.cn.


Unveiled yesterday by the Internet Society of China (ISC), an offshoot of the information industry ministry, the pact stops short the previous project of making it obligatory for bloggers to register, but it can be used to force service providers to censor content and identify bloggers.

"The Chinese government has yet again forced Internet sector companies to cooperate on sensitive issues - in this case, blogger registration and blog content," the press freedom organisation said. "As they already did with website hosting services, the authorities have given themselves the means to identify those posting 'subversive' content by imposing a self-discipline pact."

Reporters Without Borders added: "This decision will have grave consequences for the Chinese blogosphere and marks the end of anonymous blogging. A new wave of censorship and repression seems imminent, above all in the run-up to the Communist Party of China's next congress."

Under the new pact, blog service providers are "encouraged" to register users under their real names and contact information before letting them post blogs. More seriously, they will be required to keep this information, which will allow the authorities to identify them. These companies have already in the past provided the police with information about their clients, resulting in arrests.

Link.

In related news, RSF has this item about the reported confinement of cyber-dissident and blogger He Weihua in a psychiatric hospital in China's central Hunan province against his will: Link.

Reader comment: Will says,

The continued use of psychiatric hospitals as prisons by the Chinese government is an international scandal. This article on Robin Munro's excellent book, China's Psychiatric Terror, gives a good sense of how Beijing uses compliant, politicized mental health professionals as wardens and thought police.