|Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission|
|Subsidiaries||China Internet Investment Fund|
|Cyberspace Administration of China|
|Literal meaning||State Internet Information Office|
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC; 中华人民共和国国家互联网信息办公室) is the national internet regulator and censor of the People's Republic of China.
The Cyberspace Administration of China and the executive arm of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party are one institution with two names. The CAC is involved in the formulation and implementation of policy on a variety of issues related to the internet in China. It is under direct jurisdiction of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, a party institution subordinate to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. The Director of both the state and party institutions is Zhuang Rongwen, who serves concurrently as the Deputy Head of the CCP's Central Propaganda Department.
The CAC is the majority owner of the China Internet Investment Fund, which has golden share ownership stakes in technology firms such as ByteDance, Weibo Corporation, SenseTime, and Kuaishou.
The efforts of the CAC have been linked with a broader push by the Xi Jinping administration, characterized by Xiao Qiang, head of China Digital Times, as a "ferocious assault on civil society." This has included forced confessions of television journalists, military parades, harsh media censorship and more. The CAC additionally organizes the World Internet Conference.
The CAC includes the following departments: an Internet Security Emergency Command Center, an Agency Service Center, and an Illegal and Unhealthy Information Reporting Center. The CAC also maintains some censorship functions, including issuing directives to media companies in China. After a campaign to arrest almost 200 lawyers and activists in China, the CAC published a directive saying that "All websites must, without exception, use as the standard official and authoritative media reports with regards to the detention of trouble-making lawyers by the relevant departments."
Lu Wei, until 2016 the head of the CAC, was previously the head of the Beijing Propaganda Department, and oversaw the Internet Management Office, a "massive human effort" that involved over 60,000 Internet propaganda workers and two million others employed off-payroll. It was this experience that assisted General Secretary Xi Jinping in selecting Lu as the head of the newly formed Internet regulator, the CAC.
Further information: Internet censorship in China
Among the areas the CAC regulates include usernames on the Chinese Internet, the appropriateness of remarks made online, virtual private networks, the content of Internet portals, and much more.
According to a draft Cyber Security Law, made public on July 6, 2015, the CAC works with other Chinese regulators to formulate a catalog of "key network equipment" and "specialized network security products" for certification. The CAC is also involved in reviewing the procurement of network products or services for national security considerations. Data stored outside of China by Chinese companies is also required to undergo CAC approval.
In 2015, the CAC was also responsible for chasing down Internet users and web sites that published "rumors" following an explosion in the port city of Tianjin. Such rumors included claims that blasts killed 1,000 people, or that there was looting, or leadership ructions as a result of the blast. The same year, the CAC debuted a song that Paul Mozur of The New York Times called "a throwback to revolutionary songs glorifying the state." The song included the lines: “Unified with the strength of all living things, Devoted to turning the global village into the most beautiful scene” and “An Internet power: Tell the world that the Chinese Dream is uplifting China.”
The CAC has been given the responsibility for reviewing the security of devices made by foreign countries.
In May 2020, the CAC announced a campaign to "clean up" online political and religious content deemed "illegal."
In July 2020, CAC commenced a three-month censorship action on We-Media in China.
In December 2020, CAC removed 105 apps, including that of Tripadvisor, from China's app stores that were deemed "illegal" in a move to "clean up China's internet".
In 2021, CAC launched a hotline to report online comments against the Chinese Communist Party, including comments which it deemed "historical nihilism." In 2022, CAC published rules that mandate that all online comments must be pre-reviewed before being published.
During the 2022 COVID-19 protests in China, the CAC directed companies such as Tencent and ByteDance to intensify their censorship efforts.
In January 2023, CAC ordered any content displaying "gloomy emotions" to be censored during Lunar New Year celebrations as part of its "Spring Festival internet environment rectification" campaign.
In April 2023, CAC proposed rules that content produced by artificial intelligence "must reflect the core values of socialism." In July 2023, CAC announced a licensing requirement for generative artificial intelligence systems.
Since at least 2017, CAC has cooperated with Russia's principal internet regulator and censor, Roskomnadzor.
In November 2023, CAC imposed a curfew on online gaming for minors. The restrictions included banning children under 18 from gaming between 10 p.m and 8 a.m. In addition to that, these children were restricted to only 90 minutes of online gaming on weekdays and 3 hours on weekends and holidays. Extra restrictions were imposed on spending where 8 to 16 year old gamers were allowed to spend 200 yuan (£22, $29) per month while 16 to 18 year old only 400 yuan per month.
In August 2023, CAC proposed regulations to curb perceived internet addiction on minors. These regulations would limit minors between the ages of 16 and 18 to only 2 hours of mobile usage per day although they can be bypassed. Children under the age of 18 will be restricted from accessing the internet between 10 p.m and 6 a.m whereas children under age 8 will be allowed only 8 minutes a day. CAC says that online platforms will be responsible for the execution of the law if passed although the specific penalties were not disclosed in the event of failure to comply. The proposal is open to public feedback  until September 2nd 2023.
Further information: COVID-19 misinformation by China
The CAC has been accused of assisting in cyber attacks against visitors to Chinese websites. The anti-censorship group GreatFire.org provided data and reports showing man-in-the-middle attacks against major foreign web services, including iCloud, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google. The attack would have required the ability to "tap into the backbone of the Chinese Internet."
Gibson Research Corporation attributed some of the attacks against GitHub to the CAC's operations. In the attack, ads hosted on Baidu were able to leverage computers visiting from outside China, redirecting their traffic to overload the servers of GitHub. "The tampering takes places someplace between when the traffic enters China and when it hits Baidu's servers," Gibson wrote. "This is consistent with previous malicious actions and points to the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) being directly involved..."
A 2020 investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times found that CAC systematically placed censorship restrictions on Chinese media outlets and social media to avoid mentions of the COVID-19 outbreak, mentions of Li Wenliang, and "activated legions of fake online commenters to flood social sites with distracting chatter".
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