China’s cyberspace regulator has published a draft of the “Regulations on the Protection of Minors on the Internet.” It will be an all-encompassing law that won’t just include online gaming, but also live streaming, audio and video content, social media, and all other network service providers.
In 2020, there were 183 million internet users under the age of 18 in China. This means that 94.9% of the people that use the internet in the country are minors. It is higher than the 70.4% internet penetration rate of the nation in the same year.
The internet is a valuable tool which can be used by minors to widen their knowledge. However, China’s cyberspace regulator also acknowledges that these benefits come with risks.
Minors do not always have the awareness and capability to responsibly use the internet. They can receive information that is illegal and detrimental to their physical and mental well-being. Apart from that, their personal information could be compromised and used for purposes that they were not intended for. Lastly, some of the internet users in this age group are becoming addicted to it.
The proposed regulations by China’s cyberspace regulator are intended to address the aforementioned issues. It will focus on the four following aspects: promoting online literacy; ensuring that information disseminated is not harmful; safeguarding personal information; and preventing and treating online addiction.
“In an attitude of being responsible to the society and the people, we must strengthen cyberspace governance in accordance with the law, strengthen the construction of online content, and create a clean cyberspace for the majority of netizens, especially young people,” the draft reads.
China’s Cyberspace Regulator Included Provisions for a “Youth Mode”
Included in the draft is a stipulation on the implementation of a youth mode. Providers of online services are required to limit the number of hours that minors can use their platforms. There should also be restrictions on the monetary value of purchases that can be made. It should always correspond to the paying capacity of the user.
Furthermore, minors should not be allowed to partake in online activities that involve raising funds and voting for whatever purpose they may be.
Service providers of online gaming can only grant access to their platform to minors who have verified their identity. The unified electronic ID authentication system created by the national government should be integrated into their site. Any user unable to provide this information cannot make use of online gaming services. If this condition is not met but an individual already has an existing account, it should be canceled as soon as possible.
Tech Firms Will Have More Regulations to Comply With
Should the proposed regulations take effect, it would mean added compliance costs for tech firms across the country. Online service providers will have to take into consideration the physical and mental well-being of users under 18 years of age throughout their production process. This covers everything from conceptualization to its eventual operation and maintenance.
There should also be safeguards for minors who experience abuse on the internet. An annual social responsibility report must be published by the companies as well.
These possible regulations come in the midst of companies experiencing losses in shares. Last Monday, Tencent Holdings lost 9.8% and Kuaishou decreased 12.9%. Bilibili lost by a staggering 19.4%.
Xia Hailong said, “These new regulations undoubtedly put higher responsibilities and obligations on content network platforms. They may face more severe administrative penalties.” He is a lawyer who specializes in cyber compliance at the Shen Lun Law Firm in Shanghai.
However, Tencent and ByteDance are one step ahead of the proposal. A youth mode feature has already been implemented by the two major companies in the sector.
Hardware Companies Don’t Get a Free Pass
But it is not just the online service providers that are covered by the proposed law. Companies that manufacture and sell smart terminal products, such as mobile phones and computers, are also included.
Internet protection software must be installed on the products before they are brought outside the factory. In other cases, there should be appropriate instructions given to the buyers so that they can install the software themselves.
Providing Feedback on the Draft
Anyone from the general public can share their comments or insights on the draft of the regulations until April 13, 2022.
It can be communicated through their email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A letter can also be mailed to the Cyber Law Bureau of the State Internet Information Office, which is located at No. 11 Chegongzhuang Street, Xicheng District, Beijing, 100044. The envelope should be labeled as “Consultation on the Internet Protection Regulations for Minors.”