As mentioned in previous posts, my recent research has shown a push by internationally to legislate against trolling or devise other measures in the form of regulation against trolls. One of the most examples was the real-name registration policy in China. The recent announcement in January 2012, by the Chinese government to implement real name legislation on micro-blogs provides the best case study to understand the effects and implications of legal measures taken to dissolve the anonymity of micro-bloggers on so called internet ‘trolls’ and activists. A stark contrast to legislation in Arizona for example, which outlaws the act of trolling itself but largely seems unenforceable. Instead China has seem to adopt a more pragmatic pre-emptive measure.
The legislation required Chinese micro-bloggers to use their real name and register national I.D numbers online or risk being banned from access across websites such as weibo.com . The announcement made via the state controlled news service Xinhua earlier this year. Chinese media claimed that the “cloak of anonymity allows netizens to say whatever they like, and can lead to rumors spreading like a virus which can cause major social unrest.” (Xinhua 2012) . This announcement came at just as false rumors circulating weeks before about a supposed coup that was supposed to happen in Beijing circulated widely across the country’s social media platforms.
The head of the State Council Information Office, which regulates the internet and manages the public image of the government, said that this legislation fitted firmly into a wider campaign to curb “pornography, swindles and other unhealthy practices “. While acknowledging that this new regulatory legislation would be “controversial” (Xinhua 2012), the government urged Chinese users to “actively support the rumor-resisting campaign” and to “accept and implement the real-name microblogging registration rules.”(Xinhua 2012). The government went further to impose deadlines for registration and to warn that those who “failed to register with their real names would no longer be able to post”(Xinhua 2012) effectively abolishing thier ability to engage any micro blogging sites in china.
As user of the social media would you mind? Media outlets across the western world were quick to critise the move, labelling as a further attempt by China’s communist regime to inhibit free speech. The New York Times reported that the legislation “would allow security officers to identify micro blog users who consistently post comments about delicate issues” (Wines, 2012) resulting in their possible persecution. Chinese supporters of the legislation however, have pointed to the fact that trolls can now be target easily and held accountable . Especially since in markets in China where ISP are obliged to give up law breakers.
A common thread does seem to exist among all attempts to legislate trolling away. To stop trolls , we need to curb free speech and our basic civil liberties. I guess the question we need to ask ourselves is. Is it worth it?
Post By J.Y
Xinhua Press release in Full : http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2012-04/09/c_131515971.htm