BEIJING (AP) – New rules by a Chinese government-backed Internet group maintain strict controls over the country’s bloggers, requiring them to register with their real names and identification cards.
The guidelines from the Internet Society of China, a group made up of China’s major Internet companies, contradict state media reports this week claiming that China was considering loosening registration requirements for bloggers to allow anonymous online journaling.
The society’s new draft code of conduct seen on its Web site Wednesday says Web log service providers must still get their users’ real names and contact information.
Critics say the requirement violates a blogger’s right to freedom of expression and puts them at risk of punishment or imprisonment if they post controversial opinions about politics, religion or other issues.
The society’s proposed code of conduct for blog service providers comes in addition to already existing government regulations that govern China’s Internet. The country’s official Internet watchdog banned anonymous Web site and blog registration in 2005.
Online bulletin boards and blogs are the only forum for most Chinese to express opinions before a large audience in a society where all media are state-controlled.
China has the world’s second-biggest population of Internet users after the United States, with 137 million people online. It also has some 20 million blogs, according to government figures.
But Chinese leaders try to block online material deemed pornographic or a threat to communist rule.
Web site owners have been required to register their identities since 2005, leaving bloggers no way to post material online anonymously within China. They can use overseas services, but access to those from within China is frequently blocked by the government.
A report Tuesday by the official Xinhua News Agency said the society’s guidelines would loosen controls by letting bloggers use pseudonyms when blogging on the net.
However, the guidelines on the ISC Web site say clearly that they require Internet services to register clients’ identities. It adds that providers should encourage them to use real names when blogging too.
The code is aimed at ”limiting and preventing unhealthy and illegal content on the Web,” the document said.
It said some people use blogs to ”disseminate objectionable content, seriously disrupting social order and the public interest and polluting the online network environment.”
The code, drafted with input from major Chinese Internet companies such as Sina Corp., Sohu.com Inc. and Netease, was posted on the site this week to allow public comment before it takes effect, the introduction says.
It didn’t say when they would take effect.
The society said it would publish a list of providers who promise to follow the code.
On the Net:
Internet Society of China: http://www.isc.org.cn