Chinese government wants real names of bloggers


An article by that name was published on Ars Technica.

China is mulling a rule change that would require all bloggers to register with the government under their own names, though they would be permitted to keep using an online pseudonym. The move is part of a crackdown against what official news agency Xinhua terms "irresponsible and untrue information," which is a "bad influence" on society.

To preface, I will use the term "fact" many times in this article. "Fact" is something which can be proven or disproven, so "fact" doesn't necessarily mean a true statement. While untrue, 2+2=5 is a fact.

Now, strangely, I have mixed emotions about this. I don't want to get into whether or not it's un-American (not much of Chinese government is American), but I started thinking through it. What threat does a blog in and of itself pose? And what level of risk does the real name of the blogger mitigate?

For those who read blogs regularly, I would say that individual posts make little dent. Responsible adults who understand the blogosphere know that any information presented as fact in the blogosphere (or anywhere else, for that matter) could be untrue. However, what percentage of people actually verify facts? And how many people naiively believe information on a well-read blog as being true? I would guess that quite a few people actually believe information without verification.

That being said, the next question would be whether a large number of people believing false information or drastic opinion could somehow affect the security. I would assume that even in the US, if something were widely said that weren't necessarily true, we'd have a tendency to overreact. Since Katrina, there have been several "threats" to the nation's oil supply, each of which caused a massive drive to the gas stations, skyrocketing fuel prices, and ultimately a few changes in the economy. Fortunately, fears were assuaged. Anybody know if power threats are still making an impact in California, though? I suppose the question, then, is whose security might be at risk. China has a very rich tradition of humbly honoring authority, sometimes to a fault, but it's a characteristic very sadly missing from American culture. I suppose rotten things said about authorities there (true or not) could result in a weakening of that authority.

And lastly, does knowing the names of bloggers mitigate any of the risk? I would assume so - remember the statement about respecting authority. I don't know to what extent the government wants to go with their information knowing. But knowing that authority is concerned with what you publish about it would (in that culture) impact the way in which you present things.

All that being said, I can't say that this would be a bad thing. I would probably never stand for it in my own country (even though I don't think I blog anything that poses any sort of a national security risk), but in that culture, it seems to make some amount of sense.

This was a difficult post for me to write - I'm not a communist, nor do I like the idea. However, in America, we're not very submissive to authority - in fact we're mostly downright insubordinate. In China, trusting authority is a part of the culture.