China amends minor protection law to include cyberspace

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(Image credit: TechNode/Cassidy McDonald)

China’s lawmakers filed on Monday a draft amendment to a law protecting minors, including for the first time a section on cyberspace measures, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

Why it matters: The law, which been unchanged for seven years, is the country’s dedicated law for the protection of minors under the age of 18. A revision of the law to include cyberspace protections will potentially provide a legal basis for the country’s efforts to crack down on misuse of personal data and cyberbullying.

  • The State Council, China’s cabinet, in January 2017 released a set of draft regulations to protect minors in cyberspace, but the regulations haven’t yet come into effect, which experts attributed to a lack of support from legislation.
  • Until the amendment comes into effect, there is no specific legislation forbidding the collection of personal online data from minors.

Details: The draft revision of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Minors was submitted to the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislative body, for review on Monday.

  • The general principle of the draft section is to protect minors and guide more secure and “reasonable” internet use, according to the report.
  • Online service providers should avoid offering addictive content to minors and should limit their abilities to top up their accounts, said the draft law. Service providers should additionally assist parents with intervention for children addicted to internet services.
  • The draft law prohibits individuals and organizations from insulting, slandering, or threatening minors online. Doing so may result in content deletion, which the law allows by request from parents or guardians.
  • It also requires online service providers to seek permission from parents or guardians before collecting and using personal information from minors, echoing a set of draft privacy guidelines for app operators released by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) in May.

Context: China is stepping up efforts to protect the country’s younger generations in cyberspace as more minors gain access to the internet.

  • According to a report (in Chinese) by China Internet Network Information Center, an administrative agency responsible for internet affairs supervised by the CAC, the number of internet users under the age of 18 in China reached 169 million as of end-2018, accounting for 93.7% of the country’s minors.
  • Last month, the CAC published the country’s first internet privacy regulations applying to children, or people under the age of 14, requiring internet companies to inform parents and obtain their consent before collecting, using, transferring, or disclosing children’s personal information.