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    New York Times: China Web Sites Seeking Users’ Names

    The New York Times reports that the Chinese government secretly ordered news Web sites to require individuals to use their real names and identities when commenting on the sites.

    Until recently, users could weigh in on news items on many of the affected sites more anonymously, often without registering at all, though the sites were obligated to screen all posts, and the posts could still be traced via Internet protocol addresses.

    But in early August, without notification of a change, news portals like Sina, Netease, Sohu and scores of other sites began asking unregistered users to sign in under their real names and identification numbers, said top editors at two of the major portals affected. A Sina staff member also confirmed the change. […]

    The new step is not foolproof, the editors acknowledged. It was possible for a reporter to register successfully on several major sites under falsified names and ID and cellphone numbers.

    But the requirement adds a critical new layer of surveillance to mainstream sites in China, which were already heavily policed. Further regulations of the same nature also appeared to be in the pipeline. […]

    Central authorities have gone to new lengths to tame online activity in 2009, a year peppered with politically delicate anniversaries.

    Government censors have closed thousands of sites in a continuing war on “vulgarity,” closed liberal forums and blogs for spreading “harmful information,” blocked access to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and cut off Internet service where serious unrest has erupted, notably in the Xinjiang region of the west after deadly clashes between ethnic Uighurs and Han in July. Increasingly, officials have defended the Web shutdowns on the grounds of national security.

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