China pulls offensive nicknames from the Internet

China pulls offensive nicknames from the Internet
Accounts pretending to be government organisations, celebrities and officials are also banned, the Cyberspace Administration of China said, as are nicknames that appear to advertise cults or pornography, or that damage State security.

Nicknames in cyberspace such as "Obama" and "Putin" are no longer available for netizens in China as the country vows to crack down on inappropriate and unlawful screen names, an industry regulator said on Wednesday.

Accounts pretending to be government organisations, celebrities and officials are also banned, the Cyberspace Administration of China said, as are nicknames that appear to advertise cults or pornography, or that damage State security.

The new rule requires netizens to use registered account names on virtually all platforms, including blogs, social networking tools and messaging applications, said Xu Feng, director of the administration's mobile network management bureau.

The authority promised to set up a complaint mechanism, giving users a chance to reapply for their accounts if they were shut down.

The rule will take effect on March 1.

Website operators and Internet companies have been asked to verify accounts and clean up those that are unqualified, the administration said.

Since last year, the administration has repeatedly asked Internet firms to vet accounts to keep cyberspace "clean and tidy".

Internet companies were asked by the administration to collect the real identities of its users last year.

Operators of forums, micro blogs and messaging platforms were also ordered to hire a monitoring team to take down illegal information.

"We found some accounts used names of the Central disciplinary inspector or well-known economic specialists to publish false information. Such behaviour threatens the healthy development of the Web," said Xu.

Wang Sixin, a law professor at Communication University of China, said a tighter grip on illegal Internet information is very necessary.

"The account registration policy has been loose since the Internet came to China," Wang said. "Poor account management triggered an array of problems such as online fraud and an overflow of pornography."

"Now that there are more than 2 billion online accounts, it is time to shut down malicious accounts."

He added that Internet companies need to bear much of the responsibility to stop illegal activity because they are the biggest beneficiaries of China's booming cybereconomy.

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