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Government has blog service providers sign "self-discipline pact" to end anonymous blogging

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the "self-discipline pact" signed by at least 20 leading blog service providers in China including Yahoo.cn and Msn.cn. Unveiled on 23 August 2007 by the Internet Society of China (ISC), an offshoot of the information industry ministry, the pact stops short the previous project of making it obligatory for bloggers to register, but it can be used to force service providers to censor content and identify bloggers.

"The Chinese government has yet again forced Internet sector companies to cooperate on sensitive issues - in this case, blogger registration and blog content," the press freedom organisation said. "As they already did with website hosting services, the authorities have given themselves the means to identify those posting 'subversive' content by imposing a self-discipline pact."

Reporters Without Borders added: "This decision will have grave consequences for the Chinese blogosphere and marks the end of anonymous blogging. A new wave of censorship and repression seems imminent, above all in the run-up to the Communist Party of China's next congress."

Under the new pact, blog service providers are "encouraged" to register users under their real names and contact information before letting them post blogs. More seriously, they will be required to keep this information, which will allow the authorities to identify them. These companies have already in the past provided the police with information about their clients, resulting in arrests.

The pact says "blog providers should monitor and manage comments (. . .) and delete illegal and bad information in a timely manner." Articles 11 and 12 urge them to equip themselves with a secure management system that allows them to keep bloggers' details, including their real name, address, contact number and email address.

ISC secretary-general Huang Chengqing was clear when he said: "Blog service providers who allow the use of pseudonyms may be more attractive to bloggers, but they will be punished by the government if they fail to screen illegal information."

The companies are also urged to adopt "sincere self-discipline and, of their own initiative, to protect the interests of the State and Party."

These are some of the blog service providers who have agreed to sign the pact - Msn.cn, Renmin Wang, Xinlang, Sohu, Wangyi, Tom, Qianlong Wang, Hexun Wang, Boke Tianxia, Tianji Wang, Yahoo.cn, Huasheng Zaixian, Bolianshe and Tengxun.

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