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"Obama", "Putin" banned as Internet account handles: China Internet regulator

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) on Wednesday banned Internet avatars and account handles that featured malicious content or were posing as institutions or celebrities.

According to a 10-clause regulation published Wednesday, the CAC ruled that avatars and account handles should not include information that violated the Constitution or the country's laws; subverts state power; undermines national security and sovereignty; or is deemed rumormongering.

Malicious content includes the promotion of cults and the dissemination of pornography or extremism; and insulting or defamation of others, among others, according to the regulation.

The regulation, which will take effect on March 1, says the CAC will monitor all avatars and account handles registered on blogs, microblogs, instant messaging services, online forums, comment sections as well as other services.

Internet service providers (ISPs) should be held accountable for illegal content, the regulation said, adding that they must improve their services and supervision, and handle public tipoffs in a timely manner.

The regulation upheld internet users' right to choose a personalized account name but they should register with their real names, according to the regulation.

Fictitious accounts, posing as institutions or celebrities, should be closed, while illegal content must be removed by users in a set time, otherwise they will be suspended or canceled.

The regulation comes after a series of Internet cases that infringed on the public and individuals' interests.

Xu Feng, head of the mobile Internet bureau of the CAC, told reporters at a news briefing on Wednesday that some accounts use names similar to government departments or official media to spread rumors.

Some accounts pose as foreign leaders, including Barack Obama and Vladmir Putin, while others publicly promote prostitution, drugs and gambling, Xu added.

The CAC said last month that it had closed 17 accounts on instant messaging platform WeChat over the last two months. Including those that were masquerading as public organizations or media groups, such as the People's Daily and the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection's (CCDI) inspection groups.

Xu added that the regulation would strengthen regulation of the Internet, and ISPs were the main targets of the regulation.

"This does not restrict Internet users, instead, it protects their legitimate rights," Xu added.

Before coming into effect, ISPs have been asked to improve their service and supervision mechanisms, Xu said, adding that the public were encouraged to take part in the drive and inform authorities of violations.

[Source: Xinhua, Beijing, 04Feb15]

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