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China overhauls ISP rules to better protect children online

New rules include 'youth modes' for all video services and mandatory security software for all new devices

Internet service providers (ISPs) in China will have to implement new rules aimed at protecting minors who surf the Internet.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has produced new regulations that it says will help create a healthy and orderly network environment, as well as a safe space for children accessing content online.

The rules affect any ISP with a "huge number of minor users and significant influence among minors", although the exact classification isn't clear at this time. In the design, research and development, operation, and other stages of their services, these ISPs will have to fully consider the the mental and physical health of minors in their business decisions, and regularly conduct cyber protection impact assessments.

ISPs will also be required to establish a compliance system in accordance with state regulations, and establish an independent organisation mainly composed of external members to supervise online protection.

In terms of content, any online games, live broadcasts, audio and video channels, and social networking services will need to establish a so-called 'youth mode' specifically tailored for children, which will also need to incorporate national regulations, such as those limiting how long they can be accessed and what functions can be used.

Additionally, ISPs will be forced to cut ties with any product or service providers that violate laws and administrative regulations or infringe upon the physical and mental health of minors.

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Importantly, they will also have to publish a special report on the social responsibility of minors online protection every year, and accept social supervision through public comments and other methods.

The new legislation also proposes that online protection software or mobile phones and computers specially designed for minors should have the capability to identify illegal information or information that may affect minors’ physical and mental health.

As such, manufacturers of these products are also required to install internet protection software before the products leave the factory, or explicitly notify users of how to install it.

This isn’t the first time the CAC has cracked down on tech companies this year, as in January it announced it would introduce new rules affecting how tech platforms are able to list abroad or use recommendation algorithms. From 15 February, companies with data for over 1 million users are required to undergo a security review before listing their shares overseas.

The CAC said the main purpose of the rules is to further protect network and data security and to maintain national security.

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