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China: Cyberspace Administration Requires Paid Search Results to Be Marked

(July 20, 2016) On June 25, 2016, China’s central Internet content regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), issued a set of rules regulating Internet information search services.  The Administrative Provisions on Internet Information Search Services will take effect on August 1, 2016.  (Hulianwang Xinxi Sousuo Fuwu Guanli Guiding, CAC website (June 25, 2016); translation available through Westlaw China online subscription database.)

Providers of Internet information search services (Service Providers) are required by the new Provisions to mark paid search results item by item.  According to the Provisions, when providing search services, Service Providers must examine the qualifications of the paying clients, specify the maximum percentage of paid content in one webpage, and clearly distinguish natural search results from paid search results.  (Id. art. 11.)

The Provisions also require Service Providers to adopt information security management systems that enable “real-time inspection of public information” and provide technical support to government agencies in performing their duties.  (Id. art. 6.)

In addition, Service Providers must not provide content prohibited by laws and regulations by providing links, abstracts, snapshots, word associations, related searches, related recommendations, etc.  (Id. art. 7.)  Wherever Service Providers find search results that “apparently contain contents prohibited by laws and regulations,” they must immediately stop providing the results, keep a record, and promptly report the matter to the CAC or to local cyberspace offices.  (Id. art. 8.)  Service Providers must provide “objective, impartial, and authoritative” search results that “do not harm national interests, public interests, and legitimate rights and interests of citizens, legal persons, and other organizations.”  (Id. art. 9.)

The Provisions apply to Internet information search services provided within the territory of the People’s Republic of China.  (Id. art. 2.)

The Provisions were issued following the death of a young man who wrote a post before he died from cancer saying that he received distorted information on cancer treatment from the search engine of the Chinese Internet giant Baidu.  (Austin Ramzy, China Investigates Baidu After Student’s Death From Cancer, NEW YORK TIMES (May 3, 2016).)