On October 1, a revised version of China’s State Secrets Law went into effect. Although little reported in the West, the revised law has serious implications for information and communications technology companies operating in China. The update includes an article holding network operators and internet service providers (ISPs) responsible for censoring content and turning violators over to authorities.
China’s definition of “state secrets” continues to encompass citizens’ reporting of government corruption, malfeasance, and labor and environmental abuses. ISPs were already required to hand user data over to authorities if “state secrets” were involved, but now they will be expected to actively search user data for “secret” content. Perhaps in anticipation of the new rules, the Telegraph (UK) reported that state-controlled wireless provider China Mobile had begun monitoring the content of users’ text messages earlier this year.
If publicly-traded firms comply with the new law, will investors be complicit in repression? Human rights observers report that the Chinese government has repeatedly detained ordinary people who pass on “secret” information. Complicating the picture for investors is the fact that some state-controlled Chinese firms, like China Mobile, are also publicly traded.