As of October 1, 2017, Chinese netizens who have not registered their user accounts with online platforms under a new real name system will not be able to post comments on online content, while bans await trouble-makers.
The Regulation on the Management of Internet Comments was announced by the Cyberspace Administration of China on August 25. The regulation specifies that platforms that provide services for netizens to comment on original content, including
films, posts, online games or news, should force users to provide their authentic identity via an individual user account system before posting. Platform operators should not offer such services to those who have not verified their identity.
The regulation will dramatically reduce space for online comments as large number of unauthenticated users will not be able to write original posts and leave comments. Moreover, many platforms will be unable to bear the burden of the identity
According to Article 2 of the regulation, commenting services refer to websites, mobile applications, interactive platforms, news sites, and other social platforms that allow or facilitate users to create original content, reply to posts, leave
comments on news threads or other items in the form of written text, symbols, emojis, images, voice messages or video.
The responsibilities of comment service operators, according to Article 5, include the verification of user identities, the setting up of a comment management system to pre-screen comments on news, preventing the spread of illegal information and
reporting comments to the authorities.
Controversially, the regulation also specifies in Article 9 that comment service operators should manage their users by rating their social credit, an algorithm to measure a person's overall 'goodness' as a citizen.
Those with low credit should be blacklisted from posting and prevented from registering new accounts to use the service. At the same time, state, province and city-level cyberspace affairs offices will set up a management system to evaluate the
overall social credit of comment service operators on a regular basis.
The Orwellian social credit system for regulating internet users' activities was revealed in 2014 and the Chinese government authorized a number of credit service agencies to collect, evaluate and manage peoples's credit information the following
According to the Chinese government's Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System , the system aims to measure and enhance 'trust' between and among government, commercial sectors and citizens and to strengthen sincerity in
government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility. However, the allocation of individual credit is not transparent and the current regulation on comment services indicates that individual
online speech is a key factor in its calculation.
Thus far only national and large-scale social media and content service operators have implemented real name registration and they have not introduced measures to penalize unauthenticated users beyond limiting the circulation of their posts.
The majority of small-to-medium-size local websites and forums have not implemented real name registration because they simply don't have the capital and infrastructure to do so. The new regulation compels such websites to shut down their
Tech-blogger William Long who has discussed the issue with regulators in the past wrote in his blog:
I have discussed with the relevant authorities how small forums and websites can implement real name registration. Their view is, they can either shut the comment section down or ask their users to verify their identity by providing mobile phone
Owners of small websites can only afford a few hundred yuan to hire a server. The cost of mobile verification is RMB 6 cents per message. They would have to spend RMB 6 yuan per 100 comments. If their competitors deliberately overload them by
posting a few thousand comments a day, they will not be able to afford the cost [of verification]. In the end they will be forced to ban comments.