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Culture & Religion

Who Else Benefits From China’s Ending Internet Anonymity?

Writer Brian Profitt discusses what the country’s recent law requiring real names for Internet use could mean from a political and a marketing perspective.

What’s the Latest Development?

Last week, the Chinese government passed a law that requires users to give their real names to Internet and phone service providers and those providers to ask for users’ real names when they post information online. The reason behind it, according to the official news agency Xinhua, is to “safeguard public interests,” but many believe that the real reasons are far more insidious. Writer Brian Profitt compares the government’s situation with that of the Soviets during the glasnost era: “[China] wants to lock down control of its citizens, but it desperately wants to be a player on the global stage…[The difference is] the Internet, [which] reeks of openness and transparency.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Profitt also suggests that the crackdown on Internet anonymity could offer some inspiration for Western companies looking to take advantage of their user base. “Looking at the [existing] policies for Google, Facebook and other social platforms where identity is the real currency to be sold to advertisers and marketers, how could any such vendor be able to resist an entire nation of identified Internet users?” While China’s recent law came with a strong warning to ISPs not to sell user data, Profitt wonders if it will stick. “If…revenue generation were to come at the expense of monetizing [Chinese] citizens’ identities, well, what are they going to do? Complain?”

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