NPC China tightens down on Internet restrictions

The People’s Republic of China has issued new regulations for its citizens in regards to Internet use.  The biggest change is that the government now requires Internet users to properly identify themselves to their current ISP.

With the number of Internet users in China estimated to be around 500 million people, the government is taking steps to tighten down what its citizens may view on-line.  According to the decision by the National People’s Congress (NPC), the change was made to "ensure Internet information security, safeguard the lawful rights and interests of citizens, legal entities or other organizations, and safeguard national security and public interests," 

The changes came soon after the government implemented harsher restrictions on viewing websites outside of the country.  Among the changes, the restrictions make it near impossible for businesses to hide any commercial secrets and put a damper on what the common citizen may view on-line.

China is renowned for its heavy censorship of western-based news sites along with blocking of what is known as ‘virtual private networks’ (VPN).  VPNs allow for a user to bypass government censors by using encrypted computer surfing and communication.  VPNs and proxy servers are quite popular in China and help a user to visit foreign websites without fear of any government monitoring. 

The Internet changes came by way of the ‘Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress’, and were then adopted by China’s lawmakers.  Many of the new rules were mandated in order to tackle the recent rise in anonymous postings on-line that are often critical of the nation’s government.  With the growing popularity of the number of Weibo (microblog) users, it is particularly hard for the government to catch anyone making anonymous posts online.

While the new rules still allow for anonymous postings, the committee stated that all Internet providers, which include land lines and mobile phone providers, must force users to disclose their personal information. 

In regards to the vote, 145 members of the Standing Committee voted in favor of the ISP regulation rules, 5 abstained and 1 voted against the measure

The changes to Internet policy came after the majority of the nation’s private ISPs have been slow to adopt similar mandates that were passed earlier in 2012.  Many of the providers feared that forcing users to disclose their private information would results in protests or the customer going with another ISP. 

These latest mandates now force more legal pressure on all ISPs in the country.  And while many are voicing their concern over the changes, the government also stepped in to say they were enforcing the rules to protect users private data.