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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Anonymity just a paper shield (2)

By He Bing (China Daily)

16:00, December 28, 2011

The difference is the officials can respond by causing the micro-blogger trouble, even if the information is true, while the ordinary citizen can only stand idly by even if the information is false. An ordinary citizen who is the victim of false information cannot even sue for slander.

So anonymity does not protect citizens from the abuse of power and creates inequality among citizens.

And that inequality runs contrary to the values of modern society, in which an ordinary citizen should be protected not only from government officials if necessary, but also from other citizens as well.

Anonymity offers netizens only a false sense of security. The way to promote freedom of speech is not by hiding the speaker's identity, but ensuring citizens are not afraid to exercise their right to speak.

It is written in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China that an ordinary citizen has the right to criticize the government, but many local courts simply forget this right when sentencing citizens that have spoken out against local governments. Thus the key to freedom of speech lies in the government honoring its promise by faithfully implementing the constitution.

Requiring a verifiable identity is in fact a step in the right direction, because it will help people gain the bravery to criticize government officials where necessary. It is only if people are bold enough to criticize officials without the cloak of anonymity, and officials respond to the criticism in a reasonable and sincere way, that freedom of speech and the right to criticize the government will be protected.

So we should not oppose the new regulation, but improve it so that the companies running the online platforms can protect our true identities from being abused by those in power. To this end, the companies should never reveal the information about people's identities to anybody except at the request of the judicial departments following strict legal procedures.

This will be a test for both local governments and the companies, and we hope they will pass it.

The author is a professor with China University of Political Science and Law. The Chinese edition of the comment first appeared in Southern Weekly.

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