Online advertising becomes (more) regulated

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We recently could meet one officer of Shanghai AIC – Advertising supervision department – and discuss with him some issues concerning the Interim Measures on Management of Internet Advertising – effective since September 1, 2016. 

This is the first piece of legislation providing specific regulation of online advertising, and follows the very controversial accident of Wei Ze Xi (a young man who paid a cancer treatment highly recommended by some online advertisement, but eventually turned out to be ineffective).

The Measures expressly include in the definition of online advertisement the so-called paid-search results, advertising posted on social networks, advertising in linked pages. All such content shall be clearly highlighted as “advertising”, and moreover will all subject also to the general provisions of 2015 Advertising Law.

Publisher are supposed to have a technological control over the  content and release of such advertising, and can therefore liable for its content. This applies also to advertising content included in links – and advertisers have he obligation to notify the publisher of any change in the content of the linked page.

Consent by receivers shall be required before sending any advertising content through email; and receivers shall be given tools to allow them not to receive any such further email.

Moreover, the Measures provide new tools for authorities to carry on online advertisement supervision and enforcement. For example:

  • To meet the specific challenges of internet technology – whereby users in different locations, although connected to a same website at the same time, might see different contents – jurisdiction has been given also to authorities in the location of publisher, operators or advertiser,  and rules have been adapted and a new definition for “publisher” has been created – which will affect, for example, websites such as tudou, youku etc. which embed advertising content into the videos they display;
  • Records from officers during their online investigation might be used as evidence without need of complex notarization procedures.

As always, the key issue is enforcement: how strict will it be, in a marketwhere the “online” space is – at least – as vast as the offline?

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