China strives to protect underage internet users

The ongoing 2022 China Cybersecurity Week is a unique event where they can learn about new technologies and boost their awareness of cybersecurity.

For China's vast number of Internet users, especially the underage ones, the ongoing 2022 China Cybersecurity Week is a unique event where they can learn about new technologies and boost their awareness of cybersecurity.

The annual event, which kicked off Monday in Hefei, capital of east China's Anhui Province and runs until September 11, consists of both online and offline activities held across the country.

As of June, China's netizens grew to approximately 1.05 billion, with the ratio of Internet access coverage nationwide reaching 74.4 percent, according to a report released by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

China's underage Internet users topped 183 million by 2020, according to a 2021 report jointly issued by the CNNIC and the Chinese Communist Youth League Central Committee.

Various sectors of society, including the government, schools, and enterprises, are making joint efforts to strengthen cybersecurity for the public, particularly digital natives who are being brought up during the age of digital technology.

Legal protection

Over the past few years, a series of laws and regulations have been passed to provide strong legal support in combating online and telecom fraud in China.

The cybersecurity law, which took effect in 2017, served as a cornerstone in regulating cyberspace in accordance with the law. The law includes provisions that protect personal information, crack down on online fraud, and protect key information infrastructures.

Between April 2021 and July 2022, authorities cracked about 594,000 telecom and online fraud cases nationwide, blocked 4 million suspicious websites and intercepted 2.81 billion scam phone calls, according to China's Ministry of Public Security.

During this period, authorities prevented 109 million people from being swindled and stopped 551.8 billion yuan (about 79.2 billion US dollars) from being lost due to fraud.

On June 1, 2021, the revised law on the protection of minors took effect with a newly-added chapter dedicated to juvenile protection in cyberspace.

"The government has been strengthening efforts to create a healthy and orderly online environment in recent years to protect minors' rights and interests," said Yao Weiyao, deputy director of the juvenile protection committee of the All China Lawyers Association.

"In online games, videos and other services that are frequently used by minors, the government has also carried out effective supervision of the content, quality and protective methods," Yao added.

Last week, Chinese lawmakers voted to pass a new law on telecom and online fraud, which will take effect on December 1, 2022. The law provides strong legal support for fighting telecom and online fraud.

The law stipulates that telecom service providers are ordered to register the real identity of phone users, and financial institutions and non-bank payment service providers should put in place a customer due diligence system when opening bank and payment accounts and providing payment and settlement services.

Technological guard

Apart from legal protection, Chinese enterprises have resorted to technological means to guard teenagers from potential harm when they use the Internet.

In August 2021, Chinese tech giant Tencent announced new measures to protect underage players of its popular online game "Honor of Kings."

Players under 12 are banned from topping up in the game accounts and those under 18 are only allowed to play the game between 8 pm and 9 pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and on national holidays.

"Our gaming system is connected with the database of public security authorities to realize real-name registration and equipped with facial recognition for identity authentication," said Li Hang, vice president of Tencent's marketing and public relations.

"Our measures have proved effective as the combined gaming hours of minors dropped by 88 percent year on year in the fourth quarter of 2021," added Li.

Douyin, China's version of TikTok, automatically puts accounts of users aged under 14 into "youth mode," which limits their screen time on the short-video platform to 40 minutes per day. The "youth mode" also prevents them from using the app between 10 pm and 6 am

These measures have effectively reduced the time teenagers spend on their phones and computers, earning applause from parents across the nation.

Alipay, a major online payment app in China, offers a 15-minute cooling-off period that allows users to cancel a payment if they find the transaction suspicious. Alipay users can also choose to use the 24-hour delayed payment mode if they deem such transactions potentially fraudulent.

For the government's part, the Ministry of Public Security in March 2021 launched an anti-fraud app, which can identify fraud accurately and timeously.

By May 2022, over 14.6 million fraud clues had been reported to and dealt with by police and 230 million warnings had been issued on the app, which has played a crucial role in preventing telecom and online crimes.

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