A man talking on WeChat in Guangzhou. Photo: IC
Starting Sunday, anyone administering group chats, such as WeChat and Sina Weibo, will need to be responsible for managing the group, according to a new national regulation on Internet group chat.
The regulation, from the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), states that anyone administering WeChat, QQ and other Internet group chat must "inspect the conduct of group members and the information posted in groups so that it accords with the law, user agreements and online platform conventions," according to the CAC website.
"Service providers and users of such online groups must promote socialist values and encourage a positive and healthy Net culture," read the regulation.
A WeChat group host surnamed Liu told the Global Times that she and many other group chat hosts have been warning their members about the need to stop passing illicit content now.
"It's reasonable for cyberspace regulators to strengthen their online investigation since Internet violence was getting rampant. Now, users will have to be more careful in sending group messages," Liu concluded.
"The new regulation can serve as an alarm for all Internet users to show them that they need to be more cautious in posting comments," Wang Sixin, deputy dean of the Communication University of China's School of Literature and Law, told the Global Times on Sunday,
"In the case of those online service providers that used to turn a blind eye to illegal online comments, they'll have to be more responsible for the illicit content and controlling their users now that the new regulations have come out," Wang added.
Service providers will need to check the qualification of a group's hosts by examining their real identity or credit rating, the regulation states, and that service providers need to enforce the real-name registration of all their users before they post any comment, but users can choose not to reveal related information on the user pages.
Qin An, the head of the China Institute of Cyberspace Strategy, told the Global times on Sunday that the real-name registration could still protect the online users' need for virtual identity, while helping the country clean up its Internet world.
Qin said that the regulation complements China's Cyber Security Law, while Wang adds that to make full use of the regulation, law enforcement officials also need to turn to China's Criminal Law and related laws since the regulation does not specify penalties for violators.
Since the Cyber Security Law took effect in June, several net users have been fined or detained for posting illegal content via social media.
Last month, police in East China's Anhui Province detained a man for five days for posting insults concerning traffic police in a chat group.
Sina Weibo has also announced in late September that it will hire 1,000 reviewers to closely watch the content on its platform to better regulate its content.
The 1,000 people will be responsible for detecting and reporting pornographic, illegal, or other harmful content to the administrator to help the company deal with illicit content more effectively.