Several years ago, internet news in China was published almost entirely through internet portals. Today there are many additional news channels, including mobile apps, microblogs, official accounts, etc. In response to this growing diversity, the Cyberspace Administration of China (the “CAC”) issued the Administrative Provisions for Internet News Information Services (《互联网新闻信息服务管理规定》) (the “New Rules”) on May 2, 2017. The New Rules will become effective on June 1, 2017, which will be the same effective date as the Cybersecurity Law of the People’s Republic of China (the “Cybersecurity Law”). The New Rules will replace the Administrative Rules on Internet News Information Services, which went into effect on Sept. 25, 2005 (the “Old Rules”). The following are highlights of the New Rules.
Change of Regulatory Authority
The Old Rules were 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 has been responsible for the implementation of the Old Rules. The New Rules transfer the administrative authority to the CAC.
Still Vague Definition of “News Information” and “Internet News Information Services”
According to the Old Rules, “Internet News Information Services” include the following three types of online services:
- publication of news information;
- provision of electronic bulletin board services for current affairs and politics; and
- distribution to the public of communications on current affairs and politics.
Under the New Rules, the definition for “Internet News Information Services” is much broader than that under the Old Rules:
- services of collecting, editing, and releasing internet news information;
- reposting such news information; and
- providing a platform to spread such news information.
“News Information” mentioned in the New Rules includes relevant reports and commentaries on politics, the economy, military affairs, foreign affairs, and other public affairs, as well as relevant reports and commentaries on social emergencies. Such definition leaves a large space for the interpretation of “News Information.” In addition, as no law specifically governing “news” has been promulgated in China, the definitions of “News Information” and “Internet News Information Services” are still vague.
Grading Management of Service Permits and Foreign Investment Restrictions
The New Rules require each internet news provider to obtain a permit for Internet News Information Services before providing any of the services stated above.
For different permit applicants, each application will be reviewed by different levels of cyberspace administrators:
- Applications by central news agencies under the administration of the central news propaganda department must be submitted to and approved by the CAC;
- Applications by local news agencies under the administration of a local news propaganda department must be submitted to and approved by the local cyberspace administrator of the relevant province, autonomous region, or municipality; and
- Applications by any other type of entity that is not currently a news agency must be submitted to and pre-examined by the local cyberspace administrator at the province level where such unit is located and then finally determined by the CAC.
The applicant’s person-in-charge or chief editor must be a Chinese citizen. In addition, the applicant must separately obtain an ICP license or an ICP filing from telecom industry regulators.
In the case of foreign investment in news reporting, the New Rules, like the Old Rules, ban Sino-foreign equity joint ventures, Sino-foreign cooperative joint ventures, or wholly foreign-invested enterprises from engaging in the internet news industry.
New Media as Internet News Carriers
Under the New Rules, internet websites, applications, forums, blogs, microblogs, official accounts, instant messaging tools, and network-based broadcasts are defined as carriers of internet news. This will be the first time that new media and information platform providers are classified as internet news carriers.
Correspondingly, to comply with the Cybersecurity Law, each internet news information platform (e.g. a microblog) provider must request that its users submit their real name identification information. Each provider must enter into an agreement with any user who registers for an account on its platform so as to specify both parties’ rights and obligations.
Requirements for News Reposting
The New Rules require that if an internet news information service provider reposts any news information, it must:
- repost the news information released by the range of units enumerated by the State, such as the central news agencies directly affiliated with a province, autonomous region, and municipality directly under the Central Government;
- specify the source of the news information, its original author, the previous title, and the real name of the editor;
- not distort or tamper with the original meaning of the title or content of the news information; and
- ensure that the origin of the news information may be traced.
Content Control Upgrade
The Old Rules provide a list of content that may not be included in internet news. In the New Rules, the content list is replaced by “any information that is prohibited by laws and administrative regulations,” which gives the CAC and other competent authority the right to interpret the nature of information publicized in accordance with relevant laws and regulations.
The New Rules supervision requirements in the internet news section are stricter than those in the Old Rules. In addition, the New Rules require internet news providers to meet other regulatory requirements (e.g., Internet Content Provider, etc.). Along with other administrative regulations, the New Rules are building a comprehensive cybersecurity supervision system under the Cybersecurity Law.