China strengthens management of domestic apps, mini programs
Move to better promote internet development, deal with telecom fraud, pornography
Published: Aug 10, 2023 11:48 PM
Shoppers line up outside a smartphone store at a mall in Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province on Monday. Business activity is gradually returning to normal in the city, which was hit hard by the coronavirus. Photo: CNSphoto

Shoppers line up outside a smartphone store at a mall in Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province. File photo: CNSphoto

Chinese regulators have required apps and WeChat mini programs by domestic developers to register via the same system as domestic websites. Experts said the move will help optimize registration and management procedures and mechanisms for apps and mini programs while helping to better deal with the issues that have arisen with the expansion of the internet such as online fraud and pornographic content.

According to a notice released by WeChat on Wednesday, starting from September 1 mini programs on the platform have to register with the Internet Content Provider (ICP) system before they can become available on WeChat. The registration has to be completed in accordance with national regulations and rules such as the Law on Combating Telecom and Online Fraud, and Internet Information Service Management Measures, the notice said. 

The move came one day after China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued a notice requiring all domestic app developers to complete registration procedures. 

China started to require ICP registration in 2000. The mechanism has played an active role in promoting the development of the internet in China over the past two decades. Along with the rapid development of the internet, apps have become the main content carrier of internet service and should register with the same requirements as websites, including registering the developers' real name, network resources and services, according to the notice.

Along with the rapid development of the internet in China over the years, apps and mini programs became widely used. So it is necessary to standardize and optimize the registration and management mechanism for these products, Xie Yongjiang, executive director of the Internet Management and Legislation Research Center at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunication, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Xie highlighted some issues that have come along with the wide usage of apps and mini programs such as gambling, telecom fraud and pornographic content in education apps for children. Strict registration and review procedures will help to prevent such problems in the future, he said.    

This optimized mechanism will also help deal with emerging problems such as private information leakage given the rapid development of big data and artificial intelligence technologies, the expert said.   

Mini programs already on the platform also have to finish registration by the end of March 2024 or they will be shut down starting April 1, 2024. 

According to the MIIT notice on Tuesday, app developers who started providing apps in the Chinese market before the notice was issued have to register with provincial-level communications administrations where the developer is based between September 2023 and March 2024. MIIT will carry out an inspection in April-June 2024 and developers who have not registered by that time will be dealt with according to the law, the notice said.  

The notice stressed that app developers in the fields of journalism, publishing, education, film and television, and religion should also provide approval documentation from provincial-level communication administrations while registering their apps.