SIIO Spokesperson’s Comments concerning the “Provisional Regulations for the Development and Management of Instant Messaging Tools and Public Information Services”
This interview was originally posted on the Xinhua website.
The State Internet Information Office convened a press conference on the 7th, to announce the “Provisional Regulations for the Development and Management of Instant Messaging Tools and Public Information Services” (hereafter simply named “Regulations”), which imposes standards on instant messaging service providers, user services and user conduct, and puts forward clear management demands for engaging in public information service activities through instant messaging tools. To this end, a Xinhua journalist interviewed a SIIO spokesperson.
Q: Why was it necessary to formulate the “Regulations”? Could the implementation of the “Regulations” limit the development of instant messaging software.
A: In view of the situation of reports received by Internet enterprises and the Illegal and Harmful Internet Information Reporting Centre, the broad netizens deeply detest the fact that a small number of people use this application to disseminate unlawful information about terrorism, violence and pornography, and to wantonly propagate slander and rumours. All walks of society strongly call for norms concerning the development and management of instant messaging tools and public information services, to ensure that they become platforms that truly enable to broad netizens to fully and rationally publish information, viewpoints and suggestions, and communicate information instantly. The SIIO has formulated the “Regulations” according to the law, against the background of fully considering netizens’ heartfelt wishes and society’s voices.
The publication of the “Regulations” will benefit the healthy and orderly development of the sector, benefit improving the service quality of instant messaging enterprises and benefit the maintenance of the broad users’ lawful rights and interests.
Q: Article 6 of the “Regulations” provide that users shall commit to abide by the “Seven Baselines”, from which considerations did this originate?
A: The “Seven baselines” are not the highest demand on netizens’ conduct, but are the most basic demands put forward, in line with “baseline thinking”, they are the baselines of management, and are the greatest common denominator for the interests of the country, society and citizens. Only if the broad netizens consciously uphold the “Seven Baselines”, and if the entire society makes joint efforts, will it be possible to create a harmonious and healthy online environment, and will it be possible to let the network become a public information platform that truly serves society.
Q: After the publication of the “Regulations”, will self-media public accounts on the WeChat public platform that mainly publish current affairs information be closed?
A: The publication of the “Regulations” will benefit the standardization of publishing activities on public accounts. The “Regulations” demand that instant messaging tool users, regardless of which form they use to disseminate information to the public, must abide by the service agreement and observe the “Seven Baselines”. At the same time, the “Regulations” also put forward requirements concerning the publication and reprinting of current affairs-type news. Because of this, whether or not self-media public accounts will be closed, depends on whether or not they distribute content according to laws and regulations.
Q: Some netizens say that the “Regulations” stifle speech, how do you see this?
A: It is quite the opposite, the publication of the “Regulations” benefits the protection of true free speech. Our cyberspace cannot become a disorderly, pell-mell space full of transgression. No country in the world permits the dissemination of rumours, violent, fraudulent, sexual or terrorist information. Freedom and order are a dialectical relationship, any person’s freedom must be exercised within the scope of the law, baselines cannot be broken, and this would impede other persons’ freedom.
A: Some netizens indicate that, when a number of mobile instant messaging service providers report harmful information, it occurs that even after repeated reports, it is not possible to deal with the matter effectively, which requirements do the “Regulations” impose on this matter?
A: Article 5 of the “Regulations” provide that: “instant messaging tool service providers shall timely deal with unlawful and harmful information reported by users.” If the public discovers and reports are not timely dealt with, they may report the matter directly with the SIIO-controlled Illegal and Harmful Internet Information Reporting Centre. As soon as it is verified, the SIIO will deal with the matter according to laws and regulations.
Q: After the “Regulations” take effect, what influence will they have on the group and friend circle functioning of WeChat and other instant messaging tools?
A: Article 2 of the “Regulations” provides that “public information services as named in these Regulations, refers to the activity of disseminating information to the public through instant messaging tools’ public accounts and other forms.” Groups and friend circles are both private and public. Concerning users’ private social interactions, the “Regulations” clearly demand that instant messaging service providers shall fulfil their security management duties, and protect users’ information and their personal privacy. Concerning user activities of disseminating information through the abovementioned functions, which have public attributes, the “Regulations” demand that instant messaging tool service providers shall sign user agreements with the user, and the user shall observe the “Seven Baselines” according to the provisions of the agreement.