The Chinese government is tightening Internet monitoring by requiring users to register with their real names for services. Similar name registrations were forced on China’s Sina Weibo in 2012, a Twitter like service which features 60 million users on its servers. This has translated to difficulties for businesses that produce circumvention tools for censorship in China, often branded the “Great Firewall.” These new regulations, implemented by the Cyberspace Administration of China, will target blog, instant messaging and forum users. They are set to come into force on March 1 and expected to be implemented by Internet service providers.

Citizen Lab Research Fellow Jason Q. Ng commented on the effect this will have on virtual private networks (VPNs), which allow users to access sites such as Facebook and Google that are otherwise blocked by China. Popular VPN providers like Astrill, GoldenFrog, and StrongVPN were targeted most recently for their mobile device software.  Ng said that “VPNs were highly prized because they were fairly robust when they did work,” and added that the fear of being retaliated against for online comments will prompt further self-censorship.

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