China outlaws fake registration names for internet service users

​From March 1, the Chinese government will outlaw the use of fake registration names for internet services such as blogs, social media, and chat platforms within its borders.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) is introducing new regulations forcing people within the country's borders to use their real names when registering accounts for internet-based services such blogs, chat services, and social networks.

Under the new rules, internet service users can continue to employ personalised account names as long as they register accounts with their real names.

It will also be illegal to impersonate other people, organisations, and government bodies.

According to a report by the country's official state press agency Xinhua, the CAC's mobile internet bureau head Xu Feng said that some accounts use names similar to government departments of official media to "spread rumours".

The 10-clause regulation, which was published on February 4, also ruled that avatars and account handles should "not include information that violated the Constitution or the country's laws; subverts state power; undermines national security and sovereignty; or is deemed rumor mongering", said Xinhua.

"Malicious content includes the promotion of cults and the dissemination of pornography or extremism; and insulting or defamation of others, among others, according to the regulation," the report said.

The new regulations will take effect from March 1, with the CAC set to monitor all avatars and account handles registered on blogs, microblogs, instant messaging services, online forums, comment sections, and other services.

Internet service providers (ISPs) are likely to be held accountable for content that is deemed to be illegal by the new regulations, with the CAC calling for ISPs to improve their services and supervision.

The Chinese government, which was long been highly protective of the internet within its national borders, has been ramping up its national internet security, particularly since the extent of the United States' National Security Agency's internet spying activities were revealed by classified documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden.

In late January, the country upgraded its national internet filtering system, known as the Great Firewall, making internet filtering much stricter and more difficult to circumvent.

On Wednesday, it emerged that the country's military will instigate tougher political and ideological background checks on officers and soldiers, as well as strictly control their internet access as censorship reaches new levels.

The move to weed out anonymous internet service accounts from its national ranks is feared to have the effect of further stifling free speech in the country, with The New York Times last month highlighting the long-standing tradition of dissident bloggers and authors in the country using pen names to escape detection and government persecution.