On Jan. 11, 2016, the Cyberspace Administration of China (the “CAC”) issued an announcement to solicit public comments on a draft amendment to the Administrative Rules on Internet News Information Service (《互联网新闻信息服务管理规定》) (the “Draft Amendment”). The deadline for submitting comments is Feb. 15, 2016. Below are the major highlights of the Draft Amendment as compared with theAdministrative Rules on Internet News Information Service, which went into effect on Sept. 25, 2005 (the “Existing Rules”).

Change of Regulatory Authority

Ten years ago, the Existing Rules was jointly released by the State Council Information Office (“SCIO”) and the Ministry of Information Industry (currently named as the Ministry of Information Industry and Technology, “MIIT”). In practice, SCIO is responsible for the implementation of the Existing Rules.

The Draft Amendment vests the power in the CAC, which is a new government agency formed in May 2013. Although the CAC is a government agency, it is concurrently the Office of Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs.

Refinement of the Definition of “Internet News Information Service” 

Under the Existing Rules, “Internet News Information Service” includes the following three types of online services:

  1. publication of news information;
  2. provision of electronic bulletin board services for current affairs and politics; and
  3. distribution to the public of communications of current affairs and politics.

The Draft Amendment will overhaul the definition and include many forms of new media within the regulatory regime. According to the Draft Amendment, Internet News Information Service will cover collection, editing, publication and reposting of news information through various online channels, including but not limited to websites, applications, forums, blogs, microblogs, instant messages, and search engines.

Rise of Threshold for Licenses

The Draft Amendment, like the Existing Rules, requires each Internet news provider to obtain a license before starting business. Nevertheless, the Draft Amendment makes it difficult for applicants to obtain the licenses.

If the Draft Amendment is enacted in its current form, the “persons-in-charge” of applicants as well as their chief editors must be Chinese citizens. During the license application process, the authority may request detailed information of the applicants, such as ownership structures and business models. In addition, applicants will be obligated to formulate management systems for information security and adopt relevant technical measures. Applicants will also be required to engage qualified evaluation agencies to issue reports on information and technology security.

Applicants for online news reposting or publication platforms must be legal entities which have been incorporated for more than two years and have a good performance record for at least one year. Once a platform has been established, the platform operator will be responsible for vetting Internet news providers on the platform and filing with provincial level counterparts of the CAC.

Emphasis on Privacy Protection

The Draft Amendment allows Internet news providers to collect users’ personal identity information if the providers have already published their collection rules and record retention policies. User information, other than identity information, may be collected only with consent from users.

Internet news providers will also be required to retain within China for at least 60 days a record of the Internet news published or reposted by themselves or any users. Such information must be provided to government agencies upon their request.

The Draft Amendment further provides that Internet news providers and users may not copy, publish or distribute the identifiable information or privacy information of others, unless otherwise provided by laws or agreed by the persons in concern.

Restrictions on News Reposting

Pursuant to the Draft Amendment, if Internet news providers would like to repost news, they will only be able to repost the news published by the news agencies under the administration of central and provincial-level governments or otherwise appointed by the CAC. All reposted news must be complete and accurate, without any distortion in the meaning of original titles and contents.

Internet news providers must also clearly indicate the origins, authors, original title, and editors’ true names of the news to ensure that origins of news will be trackable.

Assurance on Effective Implementation

The Draft Amendment requires Internet news providers to establish a system for timely feedback to complainants. Individuals and entities may also directly submit complaints to the CAC or its local counterparts. Once Internet news providers receive a complaint either from independent complainants or from the CAC or its local counterparts, they will be required to take immediate actions and keep relevant records.

The CAC and its local counterparts will evaluate Internet news providers and establish a blacklist of offenders. Once the CAC or its local counterparts find that Internet news providers fail to timely take down inappropriate information, they may conduct investigations and interview the persons-in-charge, legal representatives and chief editors of such providers.