Deep Dive delves into hot issues in Hong Kong and mainland China. Our easy-to-read articles provide context to grasp what’s happening, while our questions help you craft informed responses. Check sample answers at the end of the page.
News: Internet and tech firms, authorities and schools must follow China’s new cyber safety rules to protect minors
As of 2021, China had more than 191 million internet users younger than 18. The government wants to keep these minors away from internet violence and addiction.
Last month, Chinese Premier Li Qiang gave an order to pass the Regulation on the Internet Protection of Minors. The goal of these rules is to provide a digital environment that is good for the “physical and mental health” of users under 18.
The new regulations say that schools and technology companies should provide terminals, software or apps with special functions that protect minors from internet addiction and harmful content. The rules will come into effect on January 1 of next year.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang has issued an order to pass the Regulation on the Internet Protection of Minors. Photo: Xinhua
“The Central Party Committee and the State Council attach great importance to cyberspace protection of minors, as it concerns the future of our nation and the happiness of families,” the Ministry of Justice and the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a joint statement on October 24.
“The internet has expanded minors’ study and life space; however, it has also brought some problems,” the statement said, noting issues such as young people’s poor awareness of security, the existence of illegal and harmful information, the abuse of personal information, and internet addiction.
Organisations and individuals are not allowed to produce or spread content showing sex, violence, gambling, cults, superstition, terrorism, separatism, or anything that causes people to hurt themselves.
The new regulations also require web product and service providers to set up and improve systems for early warning, detection and response to cyberbullying. They also tell schools to train teachers to figure out when students are addicted to the internet and step in to help them at an early stage.
Internet platforms should check their protection functions often and provide special services for minors. Internet providers breaking these rules could be fined up to 50 million yuan, or 5 per cent of the firm’s sales in the previous year.
Under current rules, tech companies are required to apply a “youth mode” function to control gaming and content for users aged under 16. In youth mode, for example, users are barred from conducting live-streaming broadcasts or giving gifts to live-streamers.
1. Which of the following statements are true about China’s latest measures mentioned in News?
(1) They aim to protect minors from internet violence and addiction.
(2) They require schools and technology companies to cooperate.
(3) Companies that do not follow the rules could face a fine.
(4) They punish anyone who does not report when minors access violent content online.
A. (1), (2) and (3) only
B. (1), (2) and (4) only
C. (1), (3) and (4) only
D. (2), (3) and (4) only
2. Why is the Chinese government introducing the Regulation on the Internet Protection of Minors?
3. To what extent do you agree that these new rules are necessary? Use News and your own knowledge to answer.
1. According to the chart, what was the most common issue experienced by young internet users in China in 2021?
2. Name ONE action the Chinese government is taking to address the problems mentioned in the chart.
Issue: China’s internet addiction regulation could erode the user base of Big Tech platforms, analysts say
The new regulation that takes effect next year is not expected to have much short-term impact, but over time, it could cause user habits to change
Beijing believes that internet addiction is a huge problem among minors, so it has been introducing many tough regulations on video games and internet use
China’s latest regulation to tighten internet use by minors is expected to have a limited impact on big technology firms in the short term but could harm their long-term user base.
According to the Regulation on the Internet Protection of Minors, mobile device makers – which includes local smartphone giants like Xiaomi, Huawei, and Oppo – must pre-install minor-protection software, or clearly instruct users on how to install it.
Gaming and short video companies – including Tencent Holdings, TikTok owner ByteDance and NetEase – must also provide a “minor mode” on their platforms.
“For most internet and gaming firms, minors are not their target customers,” said Zhang Shule, an analyst at CBJ Think Tank, adding that he did not expect the launch of the new regulation to affect the profits of Chinese internet firms.
Tencent is the largest video gaming company in the world by revenue. According to the company, minors made up just 0.4 per cent of total time spent on domestic games and 0.7 per cent of gross receipts in the first quarter this year.
However, the new rules could keep companies from getting minors to develop gaming habits as they become adults. This might affect the future number of users on different internet products, according to Zhang Yi, who is a founder and chief analyst at Guangdong-based consultancy iiMedia.
Zhang added that big tech firms might also lose opportunities to get young users to recognise their brand.
Children play with the smartphones on display in a Huawei store in Shanghai, China. Photo: EPA-EFE
Research from Sinolink Securities also noted the possibility that these rules could lower the usage time and the future user base of certain platforms. The research firm said minors made up 20 per cent of Chinese mobile gamers and 13 per cent of users on ByteDance’s short video platform Douyin. Limiting how minors use these products could harm the companies in the future.
For years, Beijing has been battling internet addiction, and this has led to many regulations from multiple agencies, sometimes with overlapping rules.
Beijing has already restricted online video games for minors. Players aged under 18 are only allowed to play online games for three hours per week.
1. Based on Issue, which of the following are NOT predictions that experts have about the impact of the Regulation on the Internet Protection of Minors?
(1) They will have a significant negative impact on the revenues of Chinese internet firms.
(2) The big tech firms might struggle to attract youth to their products.
(3) Companies will lose a huge portion of their active users of mobile services.
(4) The long-term user base of the local big tech firms will not be affected.
A. (1), (2) and (3) only
B. (1), (2) and (4) only
C. (1), (3) and (4) only
D. (2), (3) and (4) only
2. According to Issue, which platforms have a user base that might be most affected by the new regulation? Explain.
3. How effective do you think these measures are for protecting minors on the internet? Explain using News, Issue and your own knowledge.
Illustration: Brian Wang
1. What might the illustration be suggesting about how the new regulations will affect China’s video game industry?
2. Based on the illustration, how might excessive gaming and internet use affect minors? Explain using your own knowledge.
cybersecurity incidents: (in Chart) include fraud, viruses and leaked personal information, according to a 2021 China Internet Network Information Centre report
Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC): the national internet regulator and censor of China. To carry out the Regulation on the Internet Protection of Minors, the CAC will coordinate among various government departments – including ministries and administrations in charge of press and publication, radio and television, public security, education, telecoms and culture and tourism – as well as local governments.
harmful content: (in Chart) also described in China Internet Network Information Centre’s report as “pessimistic and negative content”. Respondents said they had been subjected to videos made to show off wealth, promoting “lying flat” (doing the bare minimum to get by), and depicting bloody and violent content.
Regulation on the Internet Protection of Minors: includes 60 articles instructing Chinese smart device makers and mobile service providers, local governments, educational institutions, and parents on what they must do to protect minors online. It also encourages the spread of content promoting “socialist core values”, revolutionary culture and traditional Chinese culture, among others, to improve morality. Under the rules, internet product and service providers should be watched by the government and society, cooperate in inspections, set up complaint or reporting channels, and handle cases in a timely manner. Firms that do not comply could face fines of up to 500,000 yuan (HK$548,170).
youth mode: also called minor mode. The CAC said the youth mode function had already helped to curb internet addiction and reduce the influence of harmful content on young users. But state media has reported that the youth mode can easily be circumvented, and there have been calls for more safeguards to protect young people online.
2. The Chinese government is introducing these new regulations to ensure the protection and well-being of minors in cyberspace. By implementing these regulations, the government aims to create a safer cyberspace for minors and promote their physical and mental health.
3. To a limited extent, I agree with the Chinese government’s decision to introduce these regulations. Although it is important to protect young individuals from harmful content and internet addiction, it is also necessary to preserve young internet users’ freedom of access to information and opportunities for online learning.
1. The most common issue experienced by young internet users in China in 2021 was encountering harmful content, such as content depicting violence.
2. The Chinese government is implementing the Cyberspace Protection Regulations for Minors, which require schools and technology companies to provide terminals, software, or apps with special functions to intervene and protect minors from internet addiction and harmful content.
2. Chinese mobile games and ByteDance’s Douyin might be most affected since minors make up 20 per cent of Chinese mobile gamers and 13 per cent of Douyin users. If minors are limited in their usage time, those platforms will lose a significant part of their user base.
3. I am not sure how effective these measures will be since users might just wait until they are 18 to play games and do what they want on the internet. If they are not taught self-control and how to use the internet wisely from a younger age, they will struggle to navigate the online world when they are 18. (accept other similar answers)
1. It might be suggesting that the video game industry might be faced with difficulties as China works to address the social harm associated with excessive gaming by introducing different regulations limiting the use of mobile devices and services among minors.
2. In the illustration, despite the stormy and dangerous environment, the teenager keeps playing the video game. It suggests that excessive gaming habits can lead to poor academic results, social isolation and even poor mental and physical health.