China mulls increased penalties, employment ban on internet violators to better safeguard cybersecurity
Published: Sep 15, 2022 12:46 AM Updated: Sep 15, 2022 12:34 AM
cyberspace Photo:VCG

cyberspace Photo:VCG

China's top cyberspace regulator on Wednesday proposed a series of amendments to the country's cybersecurity law including raising penalty and an employment ban on internet operators who violated the law to better protect the legitimate rights and interests of individuals and organizations in cyberspace and safeguard national security.

One of highlights of the newly introduced clauses released by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) is the one that plans to raise the size of penalty on operators of key information infrastructure, who use unauthorized networking products and service, up to 10 times the amount they paid for the product or 5 percent of their previous year's revenue.

According to the amendments, the penalty will also be raised on internet operators who fail to stop users on their platforms from publishing information that violates laws and regulations or those who fail to respond to major security risks and incidents appropriately.

Those internet operators will face a penalty of up to 50 million yuan ($7 million) or the equivalent of 5 percent of their previous year's revenue. The direct manager of the case, meanwhile, would be given a penalty of up to 1 million yuan and banned from working as a manager or engaging in internet operating posts, according to the amended clause.

Meanwhile, a lifelong employment ban was introduced on internet operators who engage in activities that harm cybersecurity or help others in this regard, if they had criminal records. A five-year employment ban is introduced on those who had security administration punishment.

Qin An, director of the Internet Policy and Law Research Center under the Law School in Tianjin University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the amendments place more emphasis on responsibility that internet platforms should shoulder.

"Because internet platforms are the first to bear the responsibility to safeguard cyberspace orders, it is reasonable to see the fines on them increase. Distorted, fake and illegal information circulating online would disturb the health of the cyberspace and even generate social instability. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, fake online news has been frequently seen," Qin said.

The CAC said the amendments are made to improve coordination with other new laws and optimize legal liability system and protect the legitimate rights and interests of individuals and organizations in cyberspace, so as to safeguard national security and interests. The drafted amendments are open for soliciting public opinions until September 29.

Since China's Cybersecurity Law was implemented in 2017, China has also revised, formulated and implemented laws including the Administrative Punishment Law, the Data Security Law and the Personal Information Protection Law in 2021.

Qin said when the cybersecurity law was implemented, there were no much to reference to what penalty that cyberspace violations should be given, but as China gradually established a legal framework for data and information security following the adoption and enactment of more laws on the digital economy,unification and harmonization among laws are necessary and critical to assure safe and healthy development of cyberspace.

China has been facing serious cyberattacks and threats from the "hacker empire" US. A recent case revealed earlier this month showed the email system of a university in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province - well-known for its aviation, aerospace and navigation studies - was found to have been attacked by US' National Security Agency.

Meanwhile, internet platforms such as Sina Weibo and WeChat have been taking many measures to crack down various rumors, such as those regarding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia-Ukraine conflict and etc. 

Also, a prominent case on internet operators' violating cybersecurity law was ride-hailing giant Didi Global which was fined 8.026 billion yuan ($1.19 billion). Didi was found of illegal collection of 11.963 million screenshot grabs from its users' mobile phone albums, as well as excessive collection of user clipboard information and 8.323 billion pieces of application list information.