4 July 2016
China's Internet Regulator Issues New Online Search Rules
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) recently issued the Provisions on Administration of Internet Information Search Services to regulate Internet information search services, promote the healthy and orderly development of this industry, protect the legitimate rights and interests of citizens, legal persons and other organisations, and safeguard national security and public interests, said an official in charge of this office.
According to this official, search engines play an important role in integrating Internet information and in facilitating searches, but they also have many problems. Some search results include law-violating content like rumour, obscenity, pornography, violence, and content related to homicide and terror. Some search results lack objectivity and fairness, which violates the ethics and norms of the search engine business and misleads and affects people's judgement. China's Internet users deeply resent these problems because they undermine the web ecology, disrupt the order of online information dissemination, and harm public interests. They demand the promulgation of relevant administrative rules as soon as possible. The Provisions clearly stipulate that the CAC is in charge of the supervision, administration and law enforcement of Internet information search services in the whole country while the local CAC offices are in charge of this work within their respective administrative jurisdictions.
Under these Provisions, Internet information search service providers shall bear the responsibility of establishing and improving information security management systems, such as systems for information verification and immediate inspection of public information. They may not provide information with content prohibited by laws and regulations in formats including links, abstracts and associative words. Service providers are urged to check advertiser credentials, set a clear upper limit on the number of paid ads on each search-results page, distinguish between organic search results and paid ads, and label the paid ads clearly. They are prohibited from seeking illegitimate gains by breaking related links and other means. The CAC official stressed that search service providers must shoulder their corporate social responsibility, strengthen their own management in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, and provide Internet users with objective, impartial and authoritative search results. At the same time, they must improve the professionalism of their staff, establish and improve systems for handling complaints and reports and for the protection of user rights and interests, and take the initiative to accept public surveillance. CAC welcomes members of the public to continue their supervision of law-violating and objectionable information on the Internet and make a joint effort to keep the cyberspace clean and tidy.
The Provisions shall come into force on 1 August 2016.
For details of the Provisions in Chinese, please see: