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China's Law-Based Cyberspace Governance in the New Era

China Daily | Updated: 2023-03-17 07:17

V. Promoting Public Awareness and Competence in Law-Based Cyberspace Governance

Public participation is necessary for spreading knowledge of the rule of law in cyberspace. China makes every effort to break new ground in the content, form and means of spreading legal knowledge via the internet. The Chinese netizens' awareness and understanding of the rule of law have generally increased, and online platforms have assumed their primary responsibility for legal compliance and the industry has embraced self-discipline. Respecting, learning, abiding by, and using the law is a shared understanding and basic principle, and the spirit of the socialist rule of law is fully manifested in cyberspace.

1. Internet Plus Public Legal Education

The internet has become a new space where people study, work and live; it provides a new platform for them to obtain information and access public services, which makes it a new avenue and means to spread knowledge of the law. The internet has changed the structure of legal literacy from unidirectional communication to interactive, service-based and immersive communication, and interpreted technical terms in plain everyday language. The participants have become increasingly active with better experiences and more gain.

Employing the internet to spread knowledge of the law. Government websites and WeChat official accounts set up special columns and features to spread legal knowledge regarding eco-environmental progress, food and drug safety, protecting personal information, and other matters of public concern, with a focus on the Constitution, Civil Code, National Security Law, Cybersecurity Law, and other important laws and regulations. China makes full use of the legal publicity website (legalinfo.moj.gov.cn), its weibo account, WeChat account and app and builds a smart legal publicity platform to spread knowledge and experience of the rule of law in China, so as to inculcate the idea in the public that rights and duties are integral to each other, as are personal freedom and social responsibility, to raise legal consciousness that laws should be applied to regulate behaviors and solve problems and conflicts, and to guide the people to advocate, abide by and defend the socialist rule of law.

Strengthening legal literacy through online media. With their strengths in content, channels, and resources, internet media have created a large number of graphics, cartoons, comics, short videos, livestream, and online music products on internet forums, blogs, microblogs, WeChat official accounts, instant messaging tools, livestreaming, search engines, Q&A communities and through many other channels that are tailored to meet the different needs of various groups in spreading legal awareness and explaining laws and regulations. These give the people direct access to the government's public legal education information that has deeply penetrated businesses, communities, campuses, and villages. Legal literacy has improved significantly among all the people.

Extending real-world legal literacy efforts into the virtual world. With the widespread integration of the internet with the economy and social life, those lectures, legal literacy initiatives in communities, legal consulting services, and artistic performances on the rule of law that used to be conducted in the real world are now expanding their influence and coverage through the internet. Online legal literacy training courses, micro-video contests, and quiz games are integrating with and complementing those face-to-face activities, attracting wider participation, and benefiting a larger population.

2. Publicizing Cyber Laws and Regulations

Cyber laws and regulations are the main content of public legal education in cyberspace. They are becoming increasingly familiar to the public, providing the foundation for a sound and law-based cyberspace with high ethical standards.

Cyber laws and regulations are publicized during the whole legislative process. When drafting cyber laws and regulations such as the Cybersecurity Law, Data Security Law, and Personal Information Protection Law, the opinions of citizens, legal persons and other organizations are heard and can be adopted through public solicitation, deliberation, and appraisal via both online and offline channels. When these laws and regulations were promulgated, questions were explained through press conferences, answers to media questions, and expert interpretation. The public have been encouraged to learn more about cyber laws and regulations, and abide by them, which lays a solid public foundation for the law-based governance of cyberspace.

Legal literacy efforts are also being made in law enforcement and judicial activities when appropriate. To explain cyber laws, China releases information on typical cases of public concern, including online dissemination of illegal and harmful information, infringement of rights and interests relating to personal information, telecom and online fraud, and protection of minors in cyberspace. All cases relating to cyberspace are accessible to the public through four websites — adjudication procedure information (splcgk.court.gov.cn), court trial information (tingshen.court.gov.cn), judgment information (wenshu.court.gov.cn), and enforcement information (zxgk.court.gov.cn). The general public can access this information in a more direct and vivid way, and have evolved from onlookers to participants, supporters and advocates.

3. Raising Legal Awareness of Key Groups

The authority of the law comes from the people's firm belief and sincere support. China focuses its legal literacy efforts on key groups like teenagers and internet company employees. Teenagers are guided to adhere to laws, conduct themselves with civility, and follow cybersecurity protocols when surfing the internet. Internet companies are under supervision for their compliance with laws and regulations, and they are also required to guard against legal risks.

Improving education on cyber laws among teenagers. Teenagers are the future of the country and the hope of our nation. They are a growing demographic in China's netizen population. As the pioneers of the internet, they are the most active participants in online classes, communication, and life, but their legitimate rights and interests are also vulnerable to infringement on the internet. To protect their rights and interests and promote their healthy growth and well-rounded development, China makes every effort to improve their understanding of the rule of law in cyberspace, especially on critical concerns such as internet addiction, cyberbullying, and online pornography. Varied and vivid forms are adapted to their physical and mental development and their realities, such as story books, micro variety shows, plays for kids, radio stories, online classes, quiz games, and law classes taught in primary and secondary schools by police officers, prosecutors and judges who serve as part-time vice principals. A public legal education framework integrating government, society, schools and families has taken shape, which promotes the all-round legal awareness of juvenile netizens and builds their cybersecurity competence.

Panel 7 A Website for Promoting Legal Literacy Among Teenagers — qspfw.moe.gov.cn

China launched the teenagers' legal literacy website (qspfw.moe.gov.cn) in 2012, which features columns such as animated films/TV programs, real-life stories, and laws taught through pictures. More than 190,000 schools have now registered with the website, involving over 150 million users. In 2021 alone, there were 8.3 billion views on the website to learn about the Constitution.

Strengthening internet companies' compliance with the law. Internet companies are the main market players in the digital economy, and should promote its healthy development. Honesty and observing the law must be their cardinal principles. China is intensifying its efforts to promote legal literacy among internet companies, and requiring them to incorporate cyber laws into their induction and routine training. This applies especially to laws with a direct bearing on corporate operations and industry development, such as the Electronic Commerce Law, Cybersecurity Law, Data Security Law, Personal Information Protection Law, Anti-Monopoly Law, and Anti-Unfair Competition Law. Industry associations are encouraged to provide legal education in various forms for internet companies and their employees, and to ensure that the companies place equal emphasis on economic returns and social benefit. They are also required to guide — through improving industry norms, formulating industry standards, and issuing business integrity initiatives — the companies to fulfill their legal and social responsibilities. With such measures, consumers' legitimate rights and interests are fully protected, and fair competition in the market is ensured.

4. Strengthening Research and Education on Law-Based Cyberspace Governance

Education and professional practitioners of law-based cyberspace governance underpin a cyber power and drive innovation. Facing major theoretical problems in law-based cyberspace governance and a demand for talented people, China has established a preliminary system for cultivating professionals and conducting research that combines theory and practice, adapts to the development of cyberspace, and provides intellectual support and sufficient talented people for the country's law-based cyberspace governance.

Improving comprehensive research capabilities on law-based cyberspace governance. Universities and scientific research institutes have set up new-type think tanks to conduct relevant research and established a number of comprehensive research centers. By June 2022, China had more than 90 research institutes in this field. Serving as a bank of brain trusters, ideas, and talented people, these think tanks have conducted research in many frontier areas like data, algorithms, and platform management, and produced remarkable academic results. Experts and academics are fully engaged in relevant activities and offer constructive advice on China's major plans, legislation and reforms in law-based cyberspace governance.

Strengthening the training of personnel for law-based cyberspace governance. China integrates conventional legal studies with internet-related disciplines. Cybersecurity studies have been categorized as a primary discipline, and some universities have set up secondary disciplines like internet and information law studies, digital law studies, and artificial intelligence law studies. In line with specified regulations and procedures, institutions of higher learning, on their own initiative, have run undergraduate courses on the rule of law in cyberspace such as cybersecurity and law enforcement. Teams of research and teaching in cyber law have been organized to teach interdisciplinary courses that integrate legal knowledge with computer science and statistics, such as network and information security, laws and artificial intelligence, cyber law studies, blockchain and digital evidence, and legal analytics. A group of practical textbooks covering frontier research have been compiled for students in relevant majors, including cyber law, computational jurisprudence, data law, and personal information protection law. A large number of personnel with professional knowledge of both law and technology have been trained, providing a solid foundation for building up China's strength in cyberspace.

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