The authorities of the Chinese province of Jiangxi introduced a scheme last month requiring Internet users to buy personalised identity cards, enabling close monitoring of websites accessed. The system has been employed in all 3,200 Internet cafes across the region.
Used regularly by around 65 million people across China, the Internet has become a burning issue for the communist authorities, who whilst recognising its wide potential for commerce, are keen on preventing the Web from becoming a vehicle for free speech. Many sites are already blocked such as those with pornographic content, but sites of religious and human rights groups are also barred, along with those of foreign media.
Under the new initiative, users must register personal details such as name, age and address, which are kept on a central database. Identity cards must be swiped on the machine used, and Webmasters and police are then able to trace sites accessed back to the individual. Access for specific users can also be blocked.
“This system gives us more power to prevent crimes and identify criminals on the Internet,” said a spokesman for the police computer crime division in Nanchang, capital of the province.
He also stated that more than 200,000 cards had been sold.
This is one of many initiatives put in place by the Chinese authorities in order to regulate the Internet, which is seen as a potential haven for pornographic material and gambling, as well a distraction for children.
All Internet cafes in the capital Beijing were temporarily closed earlier this year and minors subsequently banned from using them.