A screenshot of Youku.com
A screenshot of Youku.com REUTERS

China’s government implemented a new law this week requiring real-name registration for Internet users uploading videos to the Web, as a part of a new online “identity management” policy.

The new policy, which was implemented a year after the country’s ruling Communist Party initially floated the idea of requiring registration for any Internet use, is part of a larger attempt to hold China’s massive numbers of Internet-enabled people accountable for what is created, uploaded and shared online. In a notice that was published on Monday, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, which is also the government bureau in charge of media censorship, announced that the new rule is to “prevent vulgar content, base art forms, exaggerated violence and sexual content in Internet video having a negative effect on society.”

China has increasingly turned to crowd-sourced citizen journalism as local media continues to be regulated by the state and foreign media continues to be censored. As a result, amateur-uploaded videos, photos and microblog posts that document allegations of corruption, injustice or abuse can be a big threat to the officials. While President Xi Jinping is cracking down on internal corruption, especially among lower-level officials, the vast, anonymous user base of word-of-mouth news has also created some rumors the government considers dangerous.

The policy will allow users to maintain anonymous online identities after they register with their Internet service provider, said Li Fei, the deputy director of the Standing Committee’s Commission for Legislative Affairs, ahead of the policy’s approval: “Such identity management could be conducted backstage, allowing users to use different names when publicizing information.” The new “identity management” policy hopes to curb rumor-mongering online by forcing people to be accountable for what is posted and shared. However, it does not address concerns over individual safety and the vulnerability of anonymous sources, particularly for subjects within the government.

According to a report by Reuters, China’s online video hosting sites, like Youku, Tudou and Renren, have played a large role as platforms for such stories, and in some cases, rumors, to be published, with more than 428 million users combined.

China’s focus on overhauling Internet usage and laws, which included the detention of handfuls of microbloggers for starting rumors online, has already affected the popular microblogging site, Weibo: It saw a decline in users by 9 percent last year. Though competition from other social media platforms played a role in Weibo’s dip in users, China’s tightening grip on online content and added restrictions have also factored in.

In the past, China has also considered such identification and registration policies in order to obtain Internet services and when buying cell phone SIM cards.