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China tries to police the internet, with (as yet) unknown success

Posted by: Laurence Simons 20/06/12

Users may soon be required to post online under their own identity

There's something liberating about doing things when nobody knows who you are. Who hasn't put tights on their head and done graffiti under a bridge? Who hasn't cheated on their wife at a masquerade ball? Tell me, just who hasn't taken a hot passport to Buenos Aires and performed murders under an assumed identity?

And, more realistically, who hasn't posted on an internet forum, trolling under an assumed name? According to a raft of new laws being introduced basically the world over: nobody has ever not done that thing. Ever.

Which is why China is leading the way with a revolutionary new draft law announced this week. The framework on internet supervision was released for comment on the Ministry of Industry website earlier this month, and those comments will be legitimate, too: the main thrust of the law is that users have to sign up to forums, microblogging websites and the like with real-world identification.

Wait up there, hold on, woah: you needn't close down that hee-lar-ious parody Twitter account just yet. The draft is open to comment until July 6th, and it's not yet known how long it will take before it comes into effect. It does, however, come after a concerted crackdown on internet supervision in the country which first started in December '11, and is mirrored eerily across this weird planet.

The UK, for instance, could soon be a troll-free zone, after libel reforms were discussed in parliament that would see ISPs given the power to unmask anonymous online rogues. The US, too, has had enough of being called names, with Senator Joe Lieberman authoring the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, that will make similar crackdowns in the name of anti-terrorism.

What does it all mean? Well, the internet wilds aren't going to be anonymous for much longer. And it means those in digital-focussed legal jobs could have to deal with an office full of sheepish hackers pitifully trying to explain what a 'Facebook' is and why they are in trouble for what they did on it.