The Chinese government is bringing a stricter control over the Web by addressing the topic of anonymity. A new law passed in 2012 requires Chinese end users to provide their real identity to access the Internet from any computer or mobile phone, but also to be able to use all the services that can publish information. It is still possible to intervene under a pseudo, but only after passing this check.
According to the Chinese government, this measure is part of a series of laws aimed at increasing the protection of personal information on the Internet and ensuring national security in the country. Already, China has one of the strictest types of control in the world with its 500 million Internet users. Its censorship system prevents access to U.S. sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and filters keywords which are politically sensitive on social networks and allowed search engines.
In 2012, these measures have not prevented the spread of a series of web scandals over the life of the party leadership. Dissidents have indeed learned to deal with censorship, using diverted terms or private networks such as VPN, which give access to inaccessible sites. The fight against online anonymity is the Chinese authorities’ key approach to address such vulnerabilities. But “these new rules should not change the lives of the Internet users,” warns a blogger based in China as “identity check when subscribing to an online service is already the case.” However, it should make it more difficult for dissidents who seek to get online anonymously from an Internet cafe. The relationship between a text and its author will be thus easier to set.
Besides the issue of online anonymity, this law which was passed in late 2012 requires websites to “stop immediately the transmission of illegal information” as soon as they are notified about it, so as to encourage the public to report these “illegal activities”. The text also introduces less controversial measures against spam or the use of personal data for advertising purposes. These days, several articles in the Chinese press have pointed out the dangers of freedom of expression on the Internet.
To counter these measures many Chinese web users have chosen to go for a VPN, which enables them to connect to the Internet anonymously: using an encrypted IP through a highly secure tunnel implies that even their Internet Service Providers do not know what sites users visit. They can connect to any site, even those that are banned in China, by choosing to host their IP in one of 114 countries proposed by le VPN. These connections can also remain anonymous while using a smartphone or iPad by choosing a VPN mobile service.
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