That's exactly what happened with theGreen Dam mandate which was scrapped this summer, and with its failed proposals to implement real-name registration back in 2006. Given that China isn't a democracy, and neither policies nor laws require open debate in the legislature before they're passed, the government seems to have adopted a new tack with measures like the real-name system that are likely to be controversial: don't talk about it, just do it. Then aggressively work to shape public opinion after the fact so that you can claim the measure was in line with what mainstream and reasonable members of the public wanted anyway.
One point already being made is that South Korea's major websites already have a real-name registration system. (Apparently they use national e-commerce verification systems like this one (IE/Safari only) to run identity checks.) And Korea is a democracy. So, the argument goes, China is only in line with the growing global backlash against all the bad things that can come from anonymous Internet speech. One need look no further than the furore over the anonymous blogger who called aging supermodel Liskula Cohen a "skank" for evidence that many in the U.S., U.K. and Canada wouldn't mind a real-name system either. The EFF's Danny O'Brien rightly warned in an article last month that Korea is leading the global charge to stamp out anonymity.
A number of people here in China have been testing out the new registration system. The GFW blog has extensive annotated screenshots here. The NYT's Ansfield himself pointed out that he was able to register successfully using fake information. It appears that while many of the systems do check to make sure that the ID number you entered is a valid ID number, it doesn't verify whether the name you entered matched the number, let alone whether the human being entering the information matched any of it. Some people tell me they just search on the Internet for random ID numbers and use those. That said, as this blogger points out, all of these services log IP addresses. Even without real-name registration it's not so hard for the police to track somebody down if they really want to - as long as that person isn't using an anonymity tool like Tor and being extremely careful about their general online security. With growing numbers of Internet users being detained and prosecuted on charges of "spreading rumors" lately, even though the real-name registration system is far from thorough or perfect, it's likely to have a chilling effect.
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