The Communist Chinese government has demanded some 250 million users of the Twitter-style micro-blogging platform Weibo provide their real names, addresses and identity numbers, marking a new era of Internet censorship and one that the likes of Joe Lieberman want to see enforced in the United States.
From March 16, Weibo account holders will be forced to provide their real names, addresses, and passport or ID card numbers if they are to continue to use the service.
?This rule could mean more frequent real-world consequences for posters of messages disapproved of by Party authorities,? reports NDT Television, noting how ?Sina and other microblog companies are also to soon have Chinese Communist Party monitoring units established in their corporate structures.?
Fear that authorities could use the information to target those who make anti-Communist statements or criticize government officials has led to a massive drop in people signing up for the service. New sign-ups are down from 20 million to 2.5 million a month, a drop of 85 percent. Weibo currently has around 250 million account holders.
Some 8 million foreign users of the service have expressed confusion about how they will be affected by the demand for identification information, with Weibo representatives none the wiser.
Weibo?s popularity has been aided by the fact that both Twitter and Facebook are banned in China.
The ruling Communist Party routinely censors keywords and scrubs entire conversations from Weibo over politically sensitive issues such as the wave of uprisings and demonstrations that have swept the country in recent years. The recent controversy over a Chinese police chief who tried to defect was hastily censored by Weibo by order of the state.
Indeed, the primary purpose behind China?s system of Internet censorship is to mute criticism of the state and silence those who have been violently oppressed. The government shut down web access in the south-western province of Sichuan last month after two Tibetans were shot dead by Chinese troops during riots and unrest.
This makes Senator Joe Lieberman?s call for the U.S. government to be handed similar ?kill switch? powers all the more chilling. ?Right now China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war and we need to have that here too,? Lieberman, who has been at the forefront of the ?cybersecurity? agenda, told CNN in 2010.
However, China?s vice-like grip over its Internet systems has very little to do with ?war? and everything to do with silencing all dissent against the state.
China has exercised its power to shut down the Internet, something that Lieberman wants to introduce in the U.S., at politically sensitive times in order to stem the flow of information about government abuse and atrocities. During the anti-government riots which occurred in July 2009, the Chinese government completely shut down the Internet across the entire northwestern region of Xinjiang for days.
The push to end Internet anonymity once and for all and force web users to obtain a de facto permission slip from the government to post content is the ultimate endgame of the Internet censorship offensive that has gripped the United States in numerous different guises over the past few years.
The so-called ?National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace,? created by NIST under the auspices of the U.S. Commerce Department and enthusiastically promoted by the Obama administration, purports to offer an ?identity ecosystem? under which Americans will be able to protect their information not with passwords but with a ?single credential? stored on a smart card, a cell phone, a keychain fob or some other kind of gadget. This will then be used to access a myriad of data, including tax returns, health information, bank accounts and more, amounting to a passport for your entire life.