"Real Name Internet System" Trial Implemented: QQ Throws a Stone and Causes Many Splashes

August 29, 2005

The following is a partial translation by CECC staff of an opinion piece reprinted on the Xinhua Web site indicating the debate within China about requiring Internet users to register on BBSs, news groups, and games using their real names. Click here for more CECC coverage of this issue.

There was a discussion regarding a "real name system" back in the last century at the end of the 1990s, but it did not have any significant impact. It was in 2003 that there was a truly influential and broad-ranging debate, when Qinghua University professor Li Xiguang proposed that the National People's Congress prohibit online anonymity, and promoted an Internet real name system. This affair was reported widely on the Internet, and a controversy arose, and there was no lack of supporting opinions, but the opposition seemed even larger. In the end one media outlet had "the last word" and threw up the white flag of surrender saying: Li Xiguang "is extremely unrealistic in prohibiting online anonymity, and it is simply not practical either in terms of law or technology." And this seemed to bring the matter to an end.

Later, the controversy over the "Internet real name system" seemed to end temporarily, but it was put into effect in a more practical operation.

One year later, the "Internet real name system" was written into a document by the Ministry of Education in its "Opinion Regarding Further Strengthening Network Administration Work on the Campuses of Institutions of Higher Education": "BBSs on the networks of the campuses of institutions of higher education are platforms for the exchange of information between Internet users on campus, and shall strictly implement a system of user real name registration. It is necessary to increase the regulation and administration of campus networks' BBSs, and to put a stop to the spread of harmful information and the loss of control over administration in accordance with the law." Following this, the Qinghua University Water and Wood [shuimu] Qinghua BBS was set up as a model real name system internal campus interchange platform for an institution of higher education BBS. Afterward, Beijing University's No-Name [weiming], Nanjing University's Small Lily [xiao baihe], and Fudan University's Sun Moon Brilliance [riguanghua] University BBSs each implemented operations in accordance with a real name system.

Relevant people explained to the Morning News reporter: "Even though the university campus' implementation of the 'real name system' lead to a great deal of discussion, its scope was nevertheless primarily focused within campuses. The Shenzhen Public Security's demand that the Tencent Company's QQ groups founders and administrators implement a real name system, however, is a stone that has caused thousands of layers of waves, and given rise to a strong reaction throughout society."