China orders real name register for online video uploads

BEIJING Tue Jan 21, 2014 6:29pm IST

An employee watches a computer screen displaying the video game ''Glorious Mission Online'' at the game developer's office in Shanghai August 2, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song/Files

An employee watches a computer screen displaying the video game ''Glorious Mission Online'' at the game developer's office in Shanghai August 2, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Aly Song/Files

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Internet users are now required to register their real names to upload videos to Chinese online video sites, an official body said, as the Communist Party tightens its control of the Internet and media to suppress anti-government sentiment.

The new rule has been implemented to "prevent vulgar content, base art forms, exaggerated violence and sexual content in Internet video having a negative effect on society," China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) said on its website on Monday.

The rule is "aimed at online dramas, micro-films and other online audio-visual programmes" the statement on the website said. It gave no further explanation.

Online video sites are often a lodestone for comment and critique on social issues in China, with users uploading videos documenting corruption, injustice and abuse carried out by government officials and authorities.

Online video sites are extremely popular in China, with 428 million users. Those allowing user uploads include sites operated by Youku Tudou Inc (YOKU.N) and Renren Inc (RENN.N).

Youku Tudou declined to comment. Officials at Renren were not available for immediate comment.

Last year, the Communist Party began a heavy-handed campaign to control online discourse, threatening legal action against people whose perceived rumours on microblogs such as Sina Weibo are reposted more than 500 times or seen by more than 5,000 people.

Rights groups and dissidents criticised the latest crackdown as another tool for the ruling Communist Party to limit criticism of it and to further control freedom of expression.

China has attempted to implement similar real-name registration rules, including when buying SIM cards for mobile phones and signing up for Tencent's WeChat mobile messaging app and microblogs.

However, these have proven difficult to implement and easy to avoid for China's tech-savvy Internet population.

China's Internet regulation system is mired in bureaucracy and overseen by a number of government agencies, including SARFT, the State Council and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which can lead to conflicts of interest between these bodies.

(Reporting by Paul Carsten; Editing by Michael Perry and Ron Popeski)

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