The paradox of registering bloggers' real names
by Wang Xiaofeng

Bart gets a Chinese blogger ID - image from
San Lian Life Week editor Wang Xiaofeng has posted another caustic classic on his blog about the misguided follies of China's media regulators. This time the target is the new rule that Chinese media say may be issued by China's Net regulator MII (Ministry of Information Industries) requiring bloggers to register with their real names.

You can see a Red Herring article about the rules here, Wang Xiaofeng's blog post is here. Below is a rough translation.

The paradox of registering bloggers' real names

by Wang Xiaofeng

There is a bunch of people who have feasted themselves silly at a banquet. They are now planning to institute a real name registration system for blogs.

Apparently 17.5 million people have started blogs in China. Because you often find insults, curses, libel and even fraud on blogs, the relevant departments have will require bloggers to register with their real names. This way the problem can be stopped.

This is a kind of logic that would destroy Hegel.

I wonder how much water has entered the brain of the individual who came up with this? The idea that forcing people to use real names will put an end to unsavoury online discussion is like a Grimm's fairy tale.

Insults and swearing did not start because of the Internet or blogs; libel started when people first started writing. Fraud and confidence tricks are ancient crimes, you can't just blame them on the Internet. Is it possible that the real name system will solve all these problems? It's like that old joke: if the eighth steamed bun is the one that makes you full, why bother eating the first seven?

A real name registration system would certainly cut down on filthy language on the Internet. For example, a lot of people swear in the comments section of my blog; with the real name system I could find out who it is writing such things — "Ah, so it's you, you little fucker". There would be fewer backstabbbers and fewer people saying "if you've got balls, don't delete my abusive comment". The Internet would be cleaner, and happy looking.

But even though I am often at the receiving end abuse from the trolls and pests of the Internet, I don't want a real name system. Being uncivilized is one of the important features of the Internet.

Being uncivilized is also an important characteristic of Beijingers. You can't just pretend to be civilized for a few days because you're holding the Olympic Games, it's not realistic. You can't just prove that you are civilized by forcing people to use real names on the Internet, that's just cheating yourself and everyone around you.

Rather than seeing the Internet become completely civilized and perfect, I want to see it with warts and all. This is the best way to understand China's real situation. There are fucking idiots everywhere, especially on the Internet. Just because an idiot is prevented from saying uncivilized things, doesn't mean that he is not still a fucking idiot.

Do blogs really infringe on people's privacy? They can, but you have to ask how many of those 17.5 million blogs have infringed on someone's right to privacy? Very few, I believe; if it's even 1%, this society is in a muddle. You can't say that all blogs are that way just because of a few disputes and rights nfringements.

Sina's celebrity blogs all use real names, and they often have such issues with privacy infringements. Besides, anonymity on blogs is actually a form of respect for people's privacy. Some people like to write a few things straight from the heart, but they don't want their family, colleagues and friends to know, that's just the way they want to talk, who the hell are you to tell them what to do? If you force them to use their real names, you take away their right to pour their heart out. A rule or regulation should be in the interests of the majority of people, otherwise it's against common sense and reactionary.

The way Chinese people are is the just the way they are. What is expressed on the Internet is a reflection of reality. Becoming civilized is a step by step process; relying on some retarded rules is the logic of the ostrich burying its head in the sand.

Some people worry that Beijingers will take their swearing with them into the Olympic stadiums. But there's no need to worry: the places where Beijing-style cursing and swearing are heard are always places where people like to behave boorishly.

Take the Chinese football league for example: Even if the 50,000 people watching a league match at a stadium are all PhD students or government officials, or model upholders of the Eight Honors and Eight Shames, they start swearing in the same old way when they get to the match. It's a kind of sports culture, a way of letting off steam, a humanistic vent for society's self-expression.

The Olympic Games are more a like a ceremony, and in such an atmosphere, people will tune their attitude to the right "channel". It will be a wet dream for everyone in Beijing and even nationwide. In that time, just over half a fortnight, Chinese people will be strong and proud, and there will be no need to use filthy language to let off steam.

Imagine it, when the time comes the old and young will join hand in hand, everywhere you'll hear only polite words and civility. There will certainly be charming tales of a few people who missed 12 buses because they wanted to let other passengers get on first, and the whole city of Beijing will metamorphosize into Lei Feng. But the day after the Olympics are over, as soon as the ceremonial atmosphere ends, Beijingers will revert to type and start swearing again.

If you force people to use their real names on blogs and BBS, people will continue to swear. I don't believe that you can eliminate the sentence "fuck your mother" for even half a year unless China devotes huge, huge resources to controlling such people. And what can you say about swearing anyway? If you find out where someone works, his company can't just fire him for swearing.

The worst thing is that the real name system has no way of guaranteeing that a blogger's name is his or her real identity. Requiring bloggers to enter in their mobile phone numbers? Will you protect people's privacy? If such data is leaked, who will be responsible?

And there's another problem: a lot of people have the same names, for example Wang Gang, Li Qiang, Zhang Ming — how many people have those names in China? And if the first Li Qiang registers his name, must the second Li Qiang register as Li Qiangqiang, the third as Li Qiangqiangqiang, how many stutterers will be created by this rule? Imagine it, the 50,000th Li Qiang tries to register — "Fuck I've got to enter 50,000 'Qiang' characters!" — by the time he has entered them all, the website will already be bankrupt. Of course, this is a little exaggerated, but I believe that a real name system will bring more problems than an anonymous system. Then the relevant departments will have to spend more money, trying to mend this hole, and the costs to society will increase, building up like children's building blocks.

It's like a house with a lot of electronic products that give off radiation. So you invent a product to reduce radiation, but this product uses a lot of electricity, so you need another product that reduces electricity consumption, but this product attracts a lot of dust, so you need another product that gets rid of the dust, but this dust-reducing product requires a special type of detergent, and this detergent is harrmful to the skin so after using it you need to spend money on a skin protecting product, but this product causes some type of harm to the environment... when people are being very stupid, they like to invent new things.

So what's the use of the real name system? Of course it has some use, but the real intention of the real name system has nothing to do with with solving the problem of making the Internet more civilized, in fact it's solving what problem, what problem, what problem, what problem, what problem, what problem?

There are currently 1 Comments for The paradox of registering bloggers' real names
by Wang Xiaofeng.

Comments on The paradox of registering bloggers' real names
by Wang Xiaofeng

"This time the target is the new rule issued by China's Net regulator MII (Ministry of the Information Industries) requiring bloggers to register with their real names."

Is this actually a rule now? I've only ever seen it as under consideration or being drafted by some committee of some working group of something or other.

[EDITOR'S NOTE (JG): Hmm, good point, it's apparently a regulation that is being developed...]

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives