CAC Issues New Rules on Internet News Information Services

On 2 May 2017, the CAC issued the Provisions on the Administration of Internet News Information Services, which will take effect 1 June 2017.

The CAC circulated a draft of the provisions in January 2016.

The final version augments similar rules under the same name legislation promulgated in 2005.

Under the provisions, the term “news information” carries largely the same meaning as under the 2005 rules, that is, reports and comments on:

  • Social and public affairs such as politics, economy, military affairs and foreign affairs.
  • Social emergencies.

Like the 2005 rules, the provisions prohibit foreign investment in this sector and require a provider of internet news information services to obtain an internet news information service licence from the CAC or its competent local counterpart.

The provisions, however, expand the scope of “internet news information services” to reflect technological changes that have occurred since 2005 and govern all internet news and information services provided to the public, through forms such as websites, applications, forums, blogs, micro-blogs, public accounts, instant messaging tools and webcasts.

Unlike the 2005 rules, private investment in the editorial business of any internet news information service provider is expressly prohibited, and the business operation and editorial functions of the service provider must be separated.

In addition, the provisions require an internet news information service provider to:

  • Perfect information security, the real-time inspection of public information, and emergency response systems.
  • Only provide services to users who are registered under their real identity, and protect users’ personal information.
  • When reprinting news information, indicate the original author and title, and ensure the source of the news information can be traced.
  • Prominently display the internet news information service licence number on its website, establish a convenient complaint reporting channel, and timely respond to complaints.

Market Reaction

Gordon Milner, Partner, Morrison & Foerster, Hong Kong

“The core regulatory regime governing internet services in China has been extensively re-engineered over the past two years. Many of the provisions, such as the real-name registration and information security requirements, bring the 2005 rules into line with that regime. Others, such as the expansion to cover new media channels and technologies, capture apps which historically have occupied a grey area in the law. Moreover, the requirements to separate editorial functions and cite sources represent new material steps in a trend toward tightening control over editorial content and clamping down on the viral spread of stories the authorities consider ‘fake news’.”

Action Items

The provisions expressly prohibit foreign investment in this sector. Counsel for all domestic providers of internet news information services, no matter the application, should take immediate steps to initiate or tighten mechanisms to ensure compliance with the provisions, including separating editorial and business functions, ensuring the traceability of published information, protecting personal data, and responding to consumer complaints and the demands of regulators.