China Tries to Tame the Internet, U.S. Reauthorizes FISA

CHINA—In a move that is sure to make more trouble for the government than it realizes, China's national legislature has approved a law that requires people to register their names in order to use the internet.

According to Yahoo! News, "The latest measure requires users to provide their real names and other identifying information when they register with access providers or post information publicly."

The decision proves once and for all that politicians in China are as tone deaf as their counterparts in the United States.  

"This is needed for the healthy development of the Internet," said Li Fei, deputy director of the legislature's Legal Work Committee, who then responded to those who say the move will stifle free expression with a statement taken verbatim from the Totalitarian 101 handbook: "The country's constitution protects citizens' rights in supervising and criticizing the state and government officials' behavior."

Of course, the United States has a Fourth Amendment burned into its constitution that also supposedly protects Americans' privacy, but that didn't stop Congress from reauthorizing the FISA Wiretapping Act for another five years. As NPR notes, the act "allows federal agencies to eavesdrop on communications and review email without following an open and public warrant process."

It's a stark reminder how closely the two largest economies in the world resemble one another despite their often theatrical attempts to paint the other as a global menace. The good news is that both countries have large groups of people who continue to fight to keep their government from muzzling them altogether.

Just this week, in fact, reports Yahoo!, "70 prominent Chinese scholars and lawyers circulated an online petition... appealing for free speech, independent courts and for the ruling party to encourage private enterprise."

It obviously fell on deaf ears, but for how long remains to be seen. In the U.S., meanwhile, the ACLU has taken their challenge to FISA to the Supreme Court. A list of the filings in the case, Clapper v. Amnesty, can be found here.

Happy New Year!