China has introduced regulations to step up the protection of minors in cyberspace, in an attempt to fend off risks ranging from internet violence to addiction.
Chinese premier Li Qiang issued an order last week to pass the Cyberspace Protection Regulations for Minors in a bid to provide a cyber environment that is good for the “physical and mental health” of its more than 191 million internet users younger than 18, according to a state media report on Tuesday.
The rules, which come into effect on January 1, followed 2021 requirements by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) that tech companies apply a “youth mode” to control gaming and content for users aged under 16. In youth mode, for example, users are barred from live-streaming broadcasts or giving gifts to live-streamers.
“The Central Party Committee and the State Council attach great importance to cyberspace protection of minors, as it concerns the future of our nation and the happiness of families,” the Ministry of Justice and the CAC said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
“The internet has expanded minors’ study and life space, however, it has also brought some problems,” the statement said, noting issues such as poor awareness of security by young people, the existence of illegal and harmful information, the abuse of personal information and internet addiction.
Under the new rule, the CAC will “coordinate” among various government departments – including ministries and administrations in charge of press and publication, radio and television, public security, education, telecoms and culture and tourism, as well as local governments – to carry out the protection work.
According to the regulation, internet product and service providers should be subject to supervision by the government and society, cooperate in inspections, set up complaint or reporting channels and handle cases in a timely manner. Firms are subject to a fine of up to 500,000 yuan (US$68,400).
Organisations and individuals are prohibited from producing, reproducing, publishing or spreading pornographic or violent content or content concerning gambling, cults, superstition, terrorism, separatism or seducing others to commit suicide. Under the regulation, China encourages the spread of content promoting “socialist core values”, revolutionary culture and traditional Chinese culture, among others, to improve morality.
Internet platforms should assess their protection mechanisms regularly, provide tailored services or products to minors, set up an independent agency consisting of external members to supervise minor protection, publicise protection rules and remedies in case of infringement and release an annual report on what steps they take. Internet providers breaking these rules are subject to a fine of up to 50 million yuan, or 5 per cent of the firm’s annual turnover in the previous year.
The Cyberspace Protection Regulations for Minors also require web product and service providers to set up and improve mechanisms for early warning, detection and response to cyberbullying.
The regulations stipulate that schools should enhance teachers’ guidance and training, improve their ability to detect internet addiction in students and intervene at an early stage. Internet product and service providers should release anti-internet addiction measures to the public.
Around 38 per cent said they had been subjected to harmful or “pessimistic and negative content” via videos made to show off wealth, those promoting “lying flat” – doing the bare minimum to get by – as well as bloody and violent content.
Nearly 17 per cent said they had been bullied online – mocked or insulted – while 7 per cent reported being harassed in cyberspace.