Account verifications to limit spread of misinformation online
Internet service providers as well as social media and sharing platforms are to be required to verify accounts that claim to be involved in certain specialist fields, such as the economy, education, health and justice, in order to protect the public from scams and the propagation of misleading information.
The regulation, released on Monday by the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country's top internet watchdog, called for the better management of user accounts to safeguard national security and the public interest.
Under the regulation, which will take effect on Aug 1, internet service providers and platforms have the obligation to verify the identity of users and show their IP addresses, in a bid to prevent someone from registering and using accounts for nefarious or even illegal acts in cyberspace.
Accounts that provide press, publishing, economic, educational, health and judicial content are classified as being highly professional and closely related to people's personal and property rights, the regulation says, stipulating that internet platforms should verify professionals by asking the account owners to submit relevant qualifications and background materials, and then add a particular verification symbol to the accounts.
"Strengthening the management of user accounts on the internet, especially those involving the professional sectors, is essential as it can help netizens better identify what content is authorized and professional in this fast-growing and mixed information era," said Zhao Zhanling, a legal adviser for the Internet Society of China.
Zhao, who is also a lawyer with Beijing Yunjia Law Firm, recalled that he did not need to provide any qualification materials to prove his identity and occupation when registering accounts online in the past.
"But now, if I want to register a new account to post judicial content online, I will be asked to submit my business card and lawyer qualification certificate to the internet platform," he said.
Wang Sixin, a professor of internet law at the Communication University of China, said that topics about epidemic control, education, economic development and judicial cases on social media platforms were often shared by netizens in recent years, meaning that information in these industries is what the public is most concerned about.
"Therefore, we must pay closer attention and take measures to guarantee online information in these sectors is true and accurate to meet the needs of netizens and promote the healthy development of the internet," he added.
The administration said in a statement on Monday that it made the regulation because it found some irregularities that had disturbed the online order and infringed people's legitimate rights, such as those registering and using accounts to fabricate or disseminate false information or to provoke cyberbullying.