Business / Policy Watch

Cyber regulation to better protect users' interests

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-08-02 09:34

BEIJING - A series of cyber regulations officially took effect Monday, as China aims to better protect online users' interests and better guide the development of China's Internet industry.

According to a regulation on search engines, released by the Cyberspace Administration of China, search providers must ensure objective, fair and authoritative search results.

Search providers must improve censorship and remove any illegal content that could harm national interests and people's lawful rights.

The regulation ordered that search engine providers must change the paid-for listings model and rank search results according to credibility rather than price-tag.

All paid-for listings should be labeled clearly, so that they are distinguishable from normal search results, and the returned content should not mislead users, the regulation said.

The regulation came after an investigation into Baidu, which was criticized for influencing users' choices by presenting misguiding information.

Wei Zexi, a computer science major at Xidian University in northwest China who had cancer, fell victim to Baidu's "pay to play" scheme. He died in April after a controversial treatment he found via a Baidu search failed. An investigation revealed that the search engine giant had sold highlighted advertizing space to questionable medical institutions.

Another online regulation taking effect requires real-name registration for users of mobile phone apps, in an effort to hold users responsible for content they share.

On one hand, if users break the rules, they will be warned, their use of the service may be restricted and, as a last resort, accounts may be closed.

On the other hand, providers of app services must protect the privacy of its users. They will be subject to public supervision and must deal with illegal content in a timely manner.

The fast growing mobile app market has seen a boom in malicious cyber attacks, online malware and security breaches. The regulation clearly defines the role of app developers and service providers, and ordered the protection of users' right to know and purchase option.

These two regulations order all web directories to have a channel to receive complaints and compensate for any damage caused to users.

"Cyber security isn't just about national development, but also concerns the immediate interests of every Internet user. Online service providers should be aware of their social responsibility," said Li Yuxiao, a professor on Internet governance from Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications.

The regulations reflect the growing importance China attaches to public concerns over the Internet, as well as its resolve to improve its governance capability both online and offline, said Li.

The regulations are expected boost netizens' awareness of their own duty and rights online, and supervise the operation and management of Internet companies, to create a healthy environment for the people and the Internet Plus industry, said Li Zhigang, chief of Beijing Academy of Telecommunication Research.

The number of Chinese netizens has soared to 668 million.

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