IM rules are tight­ened to stem ru­mors, pornog­ra­phy

Users must reg­is­ter un­der real names, pro­vide mo­bile num­bers

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By CAO YIN caoyin@chi­

China’s In­ter­net watch­dog tar­geted in­stant mes­sag­ing tools on Thurs­day, rul­ing that users must reg­is­ter with their real iden­ti­ties, and tight­en­ing ac­cess to pub­lic ac­counts.

The move fol­lows the in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of the tools that has led to prob­lems in­clud­ing the spread­ing of ru­mors and in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to ter­ror­ism, pornog­ra­phy and vi­o­lence.

Un­der the State In­ter­net In­for­ma­tion Of­fice rul­ing, for ex­am­ple, peo­ple must pro­vide their real names and their mo­bile phone num­bers if they ap­ply for an ac­count on WeChat, China’s most pop­u­lar in­stant mes­sag­ing tool, de­signed by In­ter­net gi­ant Ten­cent.

By July, there were nearly 460 mil­lion users of in­stant mes­sag­ing tools in China, an in­crease of 28.42 mil­lion since last year, ac­cord­ing to the China In­ter­net Net­work In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter.

A Ten­cent re­port in May said that about 400 mil­lion are WeChat users. It also said that the num­ber of WeChat for­eign users had reached 70 mil­lion last year.

Ten­cent will tell ap­pli­cants their reg­is­tra­tions will only be ef­fec­tive un­der a con­tract us­ing the real-name sys­tem. Un­der the new rule, they can open ac­counts only af­ter the iden­ti­ties they pro­vide are ver­i­fied.

But peo­ple whose reg­is­tra­tions are ap­proved can still use nick­names in mes­sag­ing and post­ing.

Guo Kaitian, vice-pres­i­dent of Ten­cent, said most WeChat users al­ready reg­is­tered ac­counts via mo­bile phone num­bers and would not be af­fected in us­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion.

For­eign­ers can also down­load over­seas ver­sions of WeChat on app stores in their own coun­tries, the com­pany said, adding that they should also reg­is­ter mo­bile phone num­bers dur­ing regis­tra­tion.

Long­time users who reg­is­tered us­ing QQ num­bers will be en­cour­aged to use the re­al­name sys­tem grad­u­ally, Guo said, but did not give spe­cific mea­sures. QQ, another pop­u­lar Ten­cent mes­sag­ing tool, is used widely on per­sonal com­put­ers.

Shi Shusi, a pop­u­lar mi­croblog­ger and WeChat user, hailed the new rule on re­al­name reg­is­tra­tions, say­ing it is nec­es­sary to pro­vide a gen­uine iden­tity when open­ing a bank ac­count, or when shop­ping on­line.

But WeChat’s Friend Cir­cle, a func­tion that al­lows users to share their in­for­ma­tion, pic­tures and videos, has some­times trig­gered ru­mors.

Af­ter Malaysia Air­lines Flight MH370 van­ished on March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bei­jing, sev­eral ru­mors ap­peared on WeChat, while some in­di­vid­ual and pub­lic ac­counts also posted false in­for­ma­tion that re­sulted in panic.

Au­thor­i­ties also found and cleaned up part of a mes­sage say­ing that the Ebola virus


ry op­er­a­tor should shoul­der the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­tect­ing users’ in­for­ma­tion, as this will also en­able them to build their rep­u­ta­tion and image.” LI YUXIAO DIREC­TOR OF THE IN­STI­TUTE OF IN­TER­NET GOV­ER­NANCE AND LAW UN­DER BEI­JING UNIVER­SITY OF POSTS AND TELECOM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS

had ap­peared in Shang­hai in re­cent weeks.

Li Yuxiao, direc­tor of the In­sti­tute of In­ter­net Gov­er­nance and Law un­der Bei­jing Univer­sity of Posts and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, said, “Such ru­mors must be elim­i­nated and they will be re­duced un­der the real-name sys­tem.

“Ev­ery op­er­a­tor should shoul­der the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­tect­ing users’ in­for­ma­tion, as this will also en­able them to build their rep­u­ta­tion and image,” Li said.

He said that in coun­tries such as Ja­pan and South Korea, peo­ple and govern­ment de­part­ments are asked to pro­vide real iden­ti­ties when reg­is­ter­ing an in­stant mes­sag­ing tool, adding that those who breach this rule and re­lated ones will be pun­ished.

Un­der a ju­di­cial in­ter­pre­ta­tion is­sued by China’s top court last year, peo­ple reg­is­ter­ing mi­cro-blog­ging ac­counts must pro­vide real iden­ti­ties, while those spread­ing ru­mors and false in­for­ma­tion that is for­warded more than 500 times are li­able for crim­i­nal pun­ish­ment.

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