All you online lurkers, trolls, and traffickers, say goodbye to anonymity! The Chinese government has recently decided to kick up its web monitoring many a notches by requiring public wi-fi locations to install a public security software that provides officials the identities of the web users.
So far, restaurants, cafes, private schools and the like in central Beijing have been impacted by this new regulation. Most of these businesses have decided to cut off their wi-fi altogether because they are expected to foot the $3,100 bill for the software on their own.
Meanwhile, those who choose to stick it to the man and ignore the new regulation face a fine of $23,000, in addition to a possible revocation of their business licenses.
What is Big Brother’s justification for this ridiculous, unfair and seemingly sadistic move?
According to Dongcheng Public Security Bureau’s publicly issued circular, the measure is designed to catch those who use the internet to “conduct blackmail, traffic goods, gamble, propagate damaging information and spread computer viruses.” Such nefarious activity, the notice says, “not only hurts the interests of the country and the masses, but has also caused some businesses to suffer economic losses.” (NYT)
We’d like to think the government is just sick of all the goddamn trolls, but since most of them operate on government payrolls, that’s rather unlikely.
Also, considering the failure of the last government attempt at large-scale internet monitoring vis-a-vis Green Dam, let’s not tear out our wireless chips in protest just yet.
Of the dozen businesses surveyed by NYT, none expressed plans to buy the new software, which is designed to handle 100 users at a time. And those that have discontinued their free wi-fi services obviously suffer the brunt of Big Brother’s new measure. The manager of one such cafe has already seen a 30% drop in his business.
Is Shanghai next? Perhaps. But until our time comes, get yourself a piping hot cup of coffee at the nearest cafe — and troll on.
By Esther Kang