In a move that probably shocks nobody, the Chinese government has implemented a new rule that will require anyone who uploads a video online to register with their real names. No matter what justification China has for this, it will always be seen by people outside as yet another attempt to control citizens' freedom of expression.
The announcement came on Monday from China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT). The purpose, according to it, is to prevent content that it deems to have damaging effects on society. It covers videos such as online drama, micro-films, and other online audio-visual programmes. Naturally, these details are quite vague and open to interpretation. The Chinese government's interpretation, that is.
Online anonymity is a two-edged sword, even in other parts of the world. Some have used that anonymity as an excuse for behavior or actions that they would not normally do in public if their identities were known. After all, one can be bolder when you are assured that potential enemies do not know where you live.
But that anonymity has also allowed individuals to bravely speak out against injustice and misdeeds, especially when it comes to repressive regimes and government misconduct. Recent incidents in the past year alone are testament to the benefits that this level of secrecy can bring.
The situation is exacerbated in China, where the government has repeated, though sometimes unsuccessfully, tried to curb expression, particular those that are critical of it. It has already tried to require real name registration schemes when buying SIM cards or signing up for WeChat, for example, though that was met with failure. It remains to be seen if China's more technology-informed populace will find a way around this new requirement as well. Youku Tudou Inc and Renren Inc., who currently allow video uploads from users, are currently unavailable for comment.