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China regulates instant messaging services

The Chinese government has passed a regulation that will require users of instant messaging services to use real names when registering in an effort to hold users responsible for content.

The regulation aims at promoting the healthy development of the fast-growing instant messaging sector and safeguarding national security and public interests, according to the State Internet Information Office (SIIO) which passed the new rule on Thursday.

Targeting China's 5.8 million public accounts on subscription-based mobile apps such as Tencent's mobile text and voice messaging service WeChat, the new regulation will take immediate effect.

Registrants of public accounts are obliged to register with real names and reviewed by service providers before being qualified to release information.

"A few people are using the platforms to disseminate information related to terrorism, violence and pornography as well as slander and rumors," said Jiang Jun, spokesman of the SIIO. "Such behaviors have raised bitter feelings among netizens."

First time users will be required to provide their real name, while users who have previously registered accounts will experience limited access to the instant messaging service.

Users shall abide by laws and regulations, the socialist system, national interests, the legitimate rights and interests of citizens, public order, social morality and ensure the authenticity of the information they provide, the regulation states.

Meanwhile, providers of instant messaging services shall be responsible for their safe operations, protection of users' personal information and citizens' privacy, be subject to public supervision and handle illegal information in a timely manner.

Should users of such services break the terms, regulators will warn violators, limit their rights to release information, suspend their renewals or even close their accounts, based on the degree of the violation.

Popular instant messaging platforms including Tencent's WeChat allow users to send text, photos, videos and voice messages over mobile devices. Public accounts on such services are owned by individuals, organizations and companies.

Authorities believe the regulation will help protect citizens' legitimate rights to freedom of speech.

"Some people are damaging other people's rights and interests and public security in the name of freedom of speech," Xu Feng, head of mobile internet management at the SIIO said.

"The regulation will promote the quality of instant messaging services to ensure that citizens enjoy the convenience of such services. This is the true freedom of speech."

The new rule follows a series of efforts by the government to clean up cyberspace and maintain Internet order as social media platforms are gaining popularity in China.

Similar regulations were passed for China's microblogging service Sina Weibo in 2012. The Twitter-like service currently has more than 500 million registered users.

According to a judicial interpretation issued by the country's supreme court and procuratorate in September last year, people will face defamation charges posts deemed to be rumors are viewed by more than 5,000 Internet users or retweeted more than 500 times. People who are charged with defamation face up to three years in prison or lose political rights.

"Cyberspace cannot become a space full of disorder and hostility," Jiang said."No country in the world allows dissemination of information of rumors, violence, cheating, sex and terrorism."

[Source: Xinhua, Beijing, 07Aug14]

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small logoThis document has been published on 08Aug14 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.