On March 1, 2020, the Provisions on the Governance of Network Information Content Ecology (the “Provisions”) took effect. The Provisions govern China’s network information content ecology—including content producers (the “Producers”), content service platforms (the “Platforms”), content service users (the “Users”), industry organizations and Departments of Cyberspace Administration at all levels.

Network Information Content – Categories of Information

Producers, Platforms and Users are regulated with respect to different categories of content:

  • Information the state encourages be produced, copied and released (“Encouraged Information”), such as content publicizing the theory, system, principles and policies of China; highlighting economic and social development; promoting socialist core values; effectively responding to social concerns; or that enhances the international influence of Chinese culture;
  • Prohibited information (“Prohibited Information”), including content that opposes principles established by the national constitution; endangers national security; harms the honor or interests of the state; propagates terrorism or extremism; undermines national unity; undermines the state’s religious policies; spreads rumors or disturbs the economic and social order; disseminates obscenity, pornography, gambling, violence, murder, or terror; abets crimes, insults or slanders others; or other content prohibited by laws and administrative regulations; and
  • Information that Producers should refrain from creating, reproducing or disseminating (“Information to Be Prevented”), such as content that includes exaggerated titles, hyped gossip, scandals, misdeeds; inaccurate comments regarding natural disasters and major accidents; sexual suggestions/sexual provocations which are prone to cause association with sex; blood, horror, cruelty, etc., that causes physical and mental discomfort; mass discrimination/regional discrimination; vulgar and obscene content; content that induces minors to imitate unsafe behaviors, violate social morality, or form bad habits; or other content that has adverse effects.

Network Information Content Service Platforms

Under the Provisions, Platforms are required to establish and implement a governance framework to cultivate their “network information content ecology” in keeping with the Provisions. Platforms are also encouraged to amplify the Encouraged Information, ban Prohibited Information and are mandated to prevent the spread of Information to Be Prevented.

The Provisions mandate that Platforms take appropriate measures against Producers for producing, copying or releasing Prohibited Information, including through issuing warnings, demanding information be corrected or otherwise rectified, imposing functional restrictions, suspending updates, and closing accounts (in accordance with laws and contracts). The Provisions also require that Platforms promptly eliminate illegal content, document relevant activities and report such matters to the relevant department.

Additionally, the Provisions require Platforms to, among other things, develop and provide network products and services which are appropriate for minors, strengthen the auditing and policing of displayed advertising, and establish a credit management system for user accounts (and provide corresponding services accordingly).

Network Information Content Service Users

In addition to the regulations regarding Encouraged Information, Prohibited Information and Information to be Prevented, the Provisions encourage Users to weed the information ecology online through complaints, reporting and other monitoring practices.

Additional Limitations on Producers, Platforms and Users

The Provisions prohibit Producers, Platforms and Users from related uses online, including:

  • using networks or related information technology to carry out illegal acts (e.g., insulting, slandering, threatening, spreading rumors or infringing upon others’ privacy;
  •  interfering with the presentation of information (including by disseminating or deleting certain information);
  • using new technologies and applications such as deep learning and virtual reality to engage in prohibited activities;
  • unlawfully manipulating online traffic and falsely registering or illegally trading account IDs; and
  • engaging in illegal Internet commercial marketing activities by using the Party flag, Party emblem, national flag, national emblem, national anthem or other symbols and contents that represent the images of the Party or the State, or in the name of major national events, major days of commemoration, State organs or their staff.

Network Industry Organizations

The Provisions suggest industry organizations establish and improve industry self-regulation, formulate industrial norms, create an industry credit evaluation system and establish other evaluation-based reward and punishment mechanisms.

Departments of Cyberspace Administration

The Provisions require the Departments of Cyberspace Administration, in conjunction with other relevant departments, to establish and improve governance mechanisms such as information sharing, joint consultation and notification, and joint handling of cases; to supervise and inspect the Platforms’ performance generally, including in connection with the Provisions, and to carry out special inspections and supervision of Platforms that have problems; and to establish an account management system for Platforms’ illegal acts.

Legal Liability

Anyone violating the Provisions may suffer the relevant administrative, civil and/or criminal liabilities.

Read the Provisions on the Governance of Network Information Content Ecology (in Chinese).