In a document published by China’s Commerce Bureau, the People’s Republic of China laid out the framework for a new Internet policy advertising law that will take effect September 1. This new Internet policy contains some radical changes to China’s existing Internet guidelines, such as a blanket ban on ad-blocking. The new policy also pushes significantly stricter advertising guidelines, however, which could make it more beneficial to both users and companies.
Changes To Advertising Law
Under China’s new Internet Policy article XVI, all software and hardware that intercepts, filters, covers, fast-forwards or in any way prevents an advertisement from being viewed is prohibited. The policy explicitly points out that ad-block capability in email clients is also prohibited, as is network-level hardware that that may contain ad-block features. In our reading of the document, it would appear China is doing this to encourage what it would consider fair economic development of the Internet.
The new advertising laws do make some attempts to protect individual users from certain types of advertisements. For example, advertisements for prescription drugs and tobacco products are banned, and any products designed for pharmaceutical purposes must be reviewed by China’s advertising agency before they can be put online.
Advertisements are also required to be clearly marked, and they cannot be disguised as other content in an attempt to trick users into clicking them. Pop-up ads will be restricted to clearly display their location, and they must contain a clearly marked close button so as not to trick users.
Email advertisements can only be sent to users that have given the company permission to send them emails containing ads. The number and type of ads will likely be restricted as well, because China deems it illegal for ads to negatively impact the smooth operations of a website.
The People’s Republic of China will also keep a list of companies that are authorized to advertise products on the Internet. These companies will be held responsible for upholding these restrictions.
By carefully regulating Internet advertisements, China may have essentially reduced the need for third-party ad-blocking services by creating a more user-friendly web browsing environment.
This policy has one major issue, however, in that it will be difficult to put into effect. Several popular web browsers and essentially all email clients today feature some sort of ad-blocking technology. The vast majority of wireless routers also feature ad-block and firewall features, as do some operating systems. Long story short, the policy would require a significant reshaping of the computer industry.