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China: Draft Measures on Internet Information Services Management

(June 19, 2012) On June 7, 2012, the State Council issued for public comment the revised draft Measures on the Management of Internet Information Services (Hulianwang xinxi fuwu guanli banfa (xiuding cao'an zhengqiu yijian gao), State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China (PRC) website (June 7, 2012).) According to a circular published on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology's website, to which the text of the measures as well as an explanation of them are attached, citizens have until July 6, 2012, to submit their opinions on the draft provisions. (Text of circular [in Chinese] (June 7, 2012).)

The original Measures were adopted by the State Council on September 20, 2000, and promulgated on September 25 of that year in 27 articles; the revised draft text has 40 articles. (Hulianwang xinxi fuwu guanli banfa (Sept. 25, 2000), China Internet Network Information Center website.)

As one commentator stated, the new draft Measures “are explicitly aimed at microblog platforms and related social media following a week after the much-publicized Weibo User Pact took effect,” but do not represent “a sea change” from the old rules. (New Draft Internet Regulations: The Empire Strikes Back?, CHINA COPYRIGHT AND MEDIA (June 8, 2012).) Sina Weibo, “the most popular local equivalent of Twitter in China,” implemented the new management system on May 28, under the rubric of three documents – the Sina Weibo Community Pact (Trial), the Sina Weibo Community Management Regulations (Trial), and the Sina Weibo Community Committee System (Trial) (all at CHINA COPYRIGHT AND MEDIA (May 8, 2012) – whereby content requirements for Weibo posts are established and a “community committee” structure set up to assess cases of violation of the requirements. (Sina Weibo Introduces New Standards for Acceptable Content, WANT CHINA TIMES (May 31, 2012); Time for Weibo Community Service?, CHINA COPYRIGHT AND MEDIA (May 31, 2012).)

Some highlights of the revised draft Measures are:

    • inclusion among the stated objectives, set forth in article 1, of “protecting national security and the public interest” and of “protecting the public and Internet information service providers' lawful rights and interests,” in addition to the original two objectives of “promoting the healthy and orderly development of Internet information services” (now listed first) and “regulating Internet information service activities” (art. 1);
    • reinforcement of the stated objective of protecting security by stipulating that Internet information service providers (ISPs) and access providers establish systems of Internet security and information security management, public information inspection, emergency response, and user information security management and also be equipped with security awareness measures (art. 14);
    • attempted limitation of Internet users' ability “to post anonymous comments on micro-blogs and forums” by proposing that they “be required to register on certain sites using their real identity” (new art. 15; Rebecca DiLeonardo, China Government Proposes New Regulations Restricting Internet Use, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (June 7, 2012));
    • tightened control over ISPs by expanding the licensing requirements for ISPs (arts. 7-8), adding a requirement that access providers verify the qualifications of ISPs (art. 11); extending the period for ISP record-keeping of publicized information to six months (vs. the current 60 days) (art. 16); requiring ISPs and access providers to keep a log for 12 months and also provide technical assistance to police and state security organs in their conducting of investigations (art. 16);
    • demarcation of supervisory bodies in charge of Internet content: the national Internet content management authority (presumably the new State Internet Information Office established in May 2011), the state telecommunications department (i.e., the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology), the Ministry of Public Security, and other relevant departments (new art. 3);
    • expansion of cooperation among the Internet information management authorities and the telecommunications, public security, and other related authorities (new arts. 23-25);
    • explicit encouragement of self regulation by Internet service providers and of supervision by the public of Internet information services (new art. 5);
    • prohibition of the same nine categories of content prohibited under the original Measures, but expansion of the ban on content that propagates “obscenity, pornography, gambling, violence, murder or fear or incites the commission of crimes” to include content that propagates the trade or manufacture of illegal, prohibited, or regulated products (art. 7), and expansion of the ban on content that “insults or slanders a third party or infringes upon the lawful rights and interests of a third party” to include content that counterfeits or makes use under false pretenses of the name of national agencies, social groups, or other legal persons;
    • inclusion of a provision on the obligation to keep personal data confidential, and not to “sell, modify, intentionally disclose, or illegally use it” (art. 17); and
    • expansion of penalty provisions (arts. 26-37).

(Management Measures on Internet Information Service: Comparison Between Existing Version and Exposure Draft, BRIDGE IP LAW COMMENTARY (June 12, 2012); see also General Office of the State Council Circular Establishes State Internet Information Office, Wang Chenren Director [in Chinese], Central People's Government of the PRC website (May 4, 2011).)