The Impact of the Real Name System in University BBS's

(  The Real Name System Caused University BBS to "Change Face".  November 29, 2005.

During the year, the BBS's (Bulletin Board Systems) that belong to eight universities went to the "system of real name registration."  This caused a great stir among the students.  Was the real name system good or bad?  The reporter investigated recently ...

Last week, second-year student Jiang Jianmai from the South Central University for  Ethnic Communities went to enter the SCUEC Forum, he found that the home page of the forum stated: "The real name registration system for this forum has gone into effect at 18:00, October 20, 2005."

It was then that Jiang Jianmai realized that as of the 20th of last month, all eight universities that belong to the national government have followed the instructions by the Ministry of Education to implement the real name system.

The so-called BBS means Bulletin Board System, and is commonly known as "Internet forum."  The BBS real name system can be simply described as requiring the netizens to register with their real personal information before they can express themselves on the Internet.

Among the various university BBS's, the two most famous ones are the Huazhong University of Science and Technology's  Beiyunhuanghe BBS and Wuhan University's Luojiashanshui BBS.  At the Beiyunhuanghe BBS, there may be two to three thousand people online at the same time, and it is an influential BBS in China.  There are more than 210 different sections, including school administration, lecture notices, science, technology, arts, etc.  Each day, "ten hottest subjects" are selected.

The reporter spoke randomly to dozens of university students, and received the reply: visiting the university BBS is something they do every day.

Actually, prior to 2003, Tsinghua University professor Li Xiguang had advocated a real name system for the Internet.  He believes that a real name system will be good for protecting intellectual property rights and copyrights, and at the same time, each person should bear responsibility for his own words and deeds.  He offered the example that in Korea, many BBS's used the real name registration system.

In March this year, the Ministry of Education issued an document: the BBS's on university campuses constitute a platform for exchange of information among university Internet users, and so it is necessary to step up regulations and administrations and uncover and delete various kinds of harmful information.  Thus, the real name registration system must be vigorously implemented.  Those BBS's that fail to prevent harmful information are told to re-organize within a time limit; those BBS's that fail to prevent harmful information or administer properly would be closed under the law.

After the document was sent out, the various university BBS's quickly "turned face."  At the eight national-controlled universities, the real name registration system was introduced with the corresponding regulations.  At the Chinese University of Geosciences and others, the regulations allowed for online registration of personal information which would then be verified by the BBS.  At Wuhan University, Central China University of Agriculture, and others, the regulations call for personal appearances with effective identification to register at the school office.

Upon information, BBS's at Peking University, Tsinghua University and Fudan University also went through similar kinds of re-organization.  Some of them blocked access from outside the university, or refused to accept new registrants when they began their real name registration system.

After the real name system went into effect, those unregistered students and teachers as well as "visitors" from outside who cannot register may browse the BBS, but they cannot write or comment on forum posts.

The implementation of the real name system caused a storm at the various universities.  Many students turned their attention to other Internet communities, such as the forums and chat groups that the students built themselves or that do not require real name registration.  The corresponding effect was that the university BBS's lost popularity.

Prior to the real name system, Luojiashanshui and Beiyunhuanghe can have 10,000 people online at their peaks.  After the real name system came into place, the popularity was less than before.  Even after a recovery period, the average number of people online is about 1,000 people or so.  At the Chinese University of Geosciences and the Central China Normal University, the average daily number of people online was only in the hundreds, or even just dozens sometimes.

The real name system also prohibited exchange between students and outsiders.  In the past, some alumni as well as friends and relatives of the students often visit the BBS's.  Now, they are not allowed to use their voice, so many outside visitors have gone away.  The communication between the university BBS's was also affected, as the various BBS's seemed to have become islands for communication only within the universities.

Wuhan University Journalism School student Huang Xumeng said: "The BBS is an Internet platform.  In this virtual platform, people can have unlimited imagination.  After the real name system came into effect, this nice piece of fantasy is undoubtedly missing."

Some students believe that the attraction of the Internet lies in the anonymity.  In a virtual environment, people can express themselves freely.  If they have to use their real names, it is more difficult to express what they really think.  It is very rare to see brilliant essays on the BBS's.

Last month, a netizen named "San Mao" wrote: "I hope that I can die peacefully" at a certain BBS of a university in Wuhan.

When the school leaders read the post, they went through the student's registration address and information and quickly located the male student and spoke to him at length.  It turned out the student did not really want to kill himself.  He had just broken up with his girlfriend, and he posted only to say that "his heart is dying."  So the school leaders left assured.

These rapid interventions and communications are the benefits of the real name system.  According to Wuhan University Network Information Office's Wang Huaimin, the Internet became more real under the real name system.  The students became more responsible for their own words and deeds.  Invectives and condemnations are fewer, and the school and students have close relationships.

One time, a student named "Autumn Leaf" posted a piece of harmful information at the Luojiashanshui BBS and created a bad influence.  Through the BBS real name system, the school quickly found out that "Autumn Leaf" was a doctoral student.  The relevant department located "Autumn Leaf" and spoke to him to clarify the facts.  Over the next few days, he did not enter the BBS.

Through other students, Wang Huaimin informed "Autumn Leaf" was welcomed to continue to come to the BBS.  But each time, "Autumn Leaf" would only post garbage when he came.  So Wang Huaimin sent "Autumn Leaf" a very long email and hoped that he can express at his true level.  "Autumn Leaf" was deeply moved.  Thereafter, he became a completely different person, and provided his analyses and thoughts on many issues, and his thoughtful posts were appreciated by netizens.

According to Wang Huaimin, the university respects the opinions of the students and communicates with the students in a timely manner.  The students feel that they are no longer talking by themselves on the BBS.  Since their opinions are valued, they naturally have a stronger sense of responsibility.

Quite a few students believe that after the real name system came into being, certain reasonable opinions on school BBS come to the attention of the school easier.  Certain problems that they used not to know whom to complain to are quickly resolved now.

In October, a Wuhan University student published on the BBS "a letter to the school administration" about the difficulties to study on one's own.  This Internet letter drew the serious attention from the school, which immediately turned many student cafeterias into night-time self-study rooms.

A student at the Central China University of Sciences posted on the BBS that someone was using the name of "construction fund" to set up a bank account to defraud people.  The school quickly investigated the matter and helped more students from being defrauded.

Wuhan University Political and Public Administration School party committee secretary Peng Yumin believes that the effects of the real name system remains to be seen.  Concerning the daily administration of the university network, the school must insist on "the combination of releasing and blocking, but with releasing as the priority."  The school must actively control and direct the BBS's, but it must also respect the unique characteristics and nature of the Internet.

Therefore, various universities are optimistic about the "re-heating" of the BBS.  According to Wang Tao, the webmaster of the Boya Forum at the Central China Normal University, the number of posts was over more than 3,000 per day before the real name system; when the real name system first went into effect, the number of posts went down to just over 1,000 per day; presently, the number of posts has returned to normal levels.  The Wuhan University Luojiashanhui BBS and the Huazhong University of Science and Technology's  Beiyunhuanghe BBS, the popularity has also risen back up.

The Internet experts point out: the trend is towards the real name system.  Following the development of society, this system will receive broad acceptance.  But for the whole country to adopt the real name system, there is much more work to do with respect to legal, technological and other issues.

The real name system is a term that emerged in recent years.  That is when someone does some specific thing, they must use their true identity.  For example, the system that is in place is the stored real name system.

When the stored real name system is in effect, the scope covers the financial markets, so that the account holders' interests are protected.  It also prevents tax evasion and stops gray income.  Thus, "blocking" is one of the functions of the real name system.

The Internet is a platform with unlimited development potential.  As long as one has a computer, one can get on the Internet and express one's viewpoints without any responsibility.  With the popularization of the Internet, certain harmful information is disseminated rapidly on the Internet, and Internet crime is also increasing.  How to enhance Internet administration has become a complicated social problem.

The real name system at the university BBS's have effectively blocked the harmful information on the BBS's and facilitate school administration.  But the detailed analysis is that this seems to be only treating the symptom.

After the real name system was used in the BBS's, the students can still enter other Internet communities that don't require verification and the anonymous harmful information can still be disseminated on the Internet.  From this, it can be seen that it is impossible to stop things with just this type of blocking on the Internet.

"The rumors stopped with the wise people."  Apart from "blocking," the school should improve the channels and conditions of communication, and to solve the various problems of the students in a timely manner.  The school should improve the moral qualities of the students and enhance their ability to determine right from wrong.  It is the combination of releasing and blocking that can get at the root of the problem.