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China drops name-and-shame blog policy

Bloggers won't have to use real names after all

China's plan to require its bloggers to register using their real names, which carried worrying implications for free speech in the country, has been dropped - for now.

The ISC (Internet Society of China), a quasi-governmental organisation, said on its website that it would seek public comment for one week on the Blog Service Governance Communique. It encouraged "self-discipline" among bloggers and called upon the blogger community "to consciously enhance their sense of responsibility and social awareness of public morality".

In October 2006, China's MII (Ministry of Information Industry), the domestic internet overseer, commissioned the ISC, which falls under its sway, to study the feasibility of instituting a real-name registration policy for bloggers. The study's focus was whether or not the government could require would-be bloggers to register using their real name, and do so using official identification.

Among the top concerns over such a system were the obvious implications for the limited free speech that China's bloggers seem to enjoy, and more practically, the record-keeping onus on ISPs and blogging sites, including China's major portals.

"One of the major complaints about the proposed real name registration rules from blog hosting companies is that registration would be impossible to implement without huge changes to the way their websites operate. The proposed rules also attracted wide-spread derision from Chinese internet users," said Jeremy Goldkorn, founder of the Danwei.org website, a blog that monitors Chinese media. "A combination of these two factors probably caused MII to back down."

However, Goldkorn acknowledged the idea may merely be dormant and not dead. "The announcement was made through the Internet Society of China, which is controlled by MII but is not a government ministry, so there is still room for a reversal on MII's part," he said.

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