China has put aside proposals to force internet users to use their real names when signing up for blogging services – and will now merely encourage them to do so.
However, blog hosts will be held responsible for censoring any suspect blog entries they might make.
Chinese censors and internet regulators have been discussing how to ensure the wider use of real names online. Some officials want all bloggers to be required to tell blog hosts their real names and ID card numbers.
On Tuesday, state media quoted Huang Dengqing, general secretary of the Internet Society of China, as citing difficulties in setting up systems to verify identities and to ensure blog hosts maintained data privacy.
“The conditions for implementing a back-stage real-name system are not yet mature,” said Mr Huang. “For the moment, there will be no compulsory . . . system, but use of such a system will be encouraged.”
The decision highlights Beijing’s efforts to balance its broad system of controls over online content with the development of a strong domestic internet industry.
The government is still pursuing plans to require real-name registration on operators of online role-playing games as part of a new anti-addiction system for young players.
The official Xinhua news agency portrayed the move away from a compulsory blogging system as the result of protests from hosting companies worried that many users would be unwilling to register using their real identities. But Xinhua also made clear that the government was still concerned by blogs’ potential for “slander, abuse, pornography and breaches of secrecy”.
It said: “Not using real names may attract more users, but this also carries another kind of cost since blogging service providers are responsible for blog content, and any that contain illegal information will result in punishment.”
Online authors have been jailed in the past. In March, a blogger, Zhang Jianhong, was jailed for six years for alleged defamation of the government and subversion.