Does China Want to Prevent Spam or Censor Mobile Messages?

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The New York Times reports the Chinese government is requiring people who purchase cell phone SIM cards to provide identification.


The requirement, which became effective Wednesday, is part of a long-running effort to curb mobile spam, pornography and fraudulent messages, the government says. Writer Michael Wines explains:

The requirement, which has been in the works for years, is not unlike rules in many developed nations that ask users to present credit card data or other proof of identification to buy cellphone numbers.


However, this requirement not only applies to mobile users who are buying new numbers/SIM cards. It also applies to the approximately 40 percent of Chinese cell phone users who have yet to be identified. Those users will have until 2013 to register, or lose their service. The three government-run companies that provide mobile services - China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom - are expected to implement and enforce the new requirement.


Since the government censors have "cracked down" on Internet content providers of late - e.g., Google's on-again, off-again status in the country - observers wonder if the new measure is an attempt by the censors to get access to messaging data so that those who send "inappropriate" missives can be punished accordingly.


The fact that researchers say the requirement will do little to reduce spam only lends credence to the idea that the Chinese government only wants more control.