China’s New Internet Use Law’s Effect on Other Countries

On Wednesday, February 4, China announced it will require all Internet users within the country to confirm their real names and official IDs starting March 1st. Beyond trying to find ways to stop Internet fraud, China is attempting to prevent dissenters in the country who are against its communist regime from speaking out against the government in a worldwide setting where peoples from other countries can then spread the word about China’s actions.

Some critics like Brian Torchin doubt that China has the resources to go after every user who fails to comply, but this change should be a wake-up call to users around the world. After all, if China can force its citizens to comply, what is to stop other governments from doing the same?

What might this mean for Internet users in the future?

A person’s ability to speak freely in any country will be stymied. Some users will self-monitor everything they write in an attempt to protect themselves from being profiled and targeted. Many users will face a higher degree of scrutiny and perhaps intimidation from government officials.

Worse yet, in some countries, users will be incarcerated or perhaps killed for speaking out against their leaders or their country’s policies.

Gmail Recently Blocked in China

China runs an extensive policy of website blocking based on the country’s eagerness to censor information. The most recent program that fell under the censorship is Google’s Gmail.

These latest actions could potentially backfire, as the Gmail service is one of the more popular in the nation. Disrupting this e-mail service could very well interrupt the usual communication streams that take place among the populace, or as businessperson Andrew Heiberger puts it, it could affect the ability of business transactions as well.

If you wrote to your Chinese friends for the new year and have not gotten a reply, the reason is actually that they most likely have never read your message. The disruptions have been observed a while before the final action, but Friday, December 26, was the decisive day for it.

Google’s market will thus suffer, and the action is classified by them as deliberate. In the USA, the authorities have expressed their worries regarding personal freedom. The Chinese should be free to choose which services they need. Instead, the government limits their access.

Popular platforms such as Google maps, Google docs, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo were blocked earlier at different dates and still remain inaccessible. The censorship system is known by the name of “The Great Firewall of China”.