Strict regulation of websites and their content
In addition, the authorities in mainland China have devised many legislative measures for strict control of websites and their content. The first was issued in 1997 by the Ministry of Public Security, that is, the police, and is still in force (Ministry of Public Security Decree No. 33). It lists nine categories of prohibited online content, including obscene and pornographic content (Article 5). Also prohibited is content which depicts violence and horror. The 1997 Regulation not only forbids production, duplication, or dissemination of the prohibited online content but also the viewing of such items. As such, individuals should not view any obscene and pornographic online content or store such items on their computers. These two prohibitions appear to be in conflict with the CL and the LAPPOS, which contain no provisions banning the viewing or possession by individuals of obscene or pornographic materials.
With later legislation, there is now an elaborate control scheme regulating Internet service providers (ISPs), Internet content providers (ICPs), electronic bulletin board services (BBS), online news, online publishing, and Internet cafes. Nearly all of these laws and regulations carry a list of prohibited online content similar to that stipulated in the 1997 Regulation, specifically banning online content that is obscene and pornographic or concerns gambling, violence or horror.
Under this regulatory regime, actions have to be taken once any prohibited online content is detected. The ICPs have a responsibility to stop transmitting such content (State Council Decree No. 292, Article 16). In the case of BBS, operators must delete such online content immediately (Ministry of Information Industry Decree No. 3, Article 13). ICPs and BBS operators are also required to report incidents of detected transmission of prohibited content to the authorities. Moreover, websites are liable for producing, duplicating, publishing or disseminating any prohibited online content (Ministry of Public Security Decree No. 33, Article 20). Punishments stipulated in the 1997 Regulation include confiscation of unlawful incomes, and a fine (Article 21). In more severe cases, the Internet access will be disconnected and the ICP concerned will be ordered to shut down its business for a period of not more than six months for ‘rectification’ (Article 21). In extreme cases, profit-making ICPs can have their licences revoked while non-profit-making ICPs can have their websites shut down (Article 21).