China drafts new rules to control notifications and pop-ups

Chinese tech companies have been accused of abusing notifications and using them to excessively push promotions or sensational content.

China drafts new rules to control notifications and pop-ups
Girl using a digital generated phone with notifications on the screen.

On March 2, Chinese regulators published a new draft of rules on notifications and pop-ups. The rules hope to stop Chinese apps’ excessive use of the tools and control what content gets shared in the notifications. 

Why it matters: Chinese tech companies widely use notifications and pop-ups to promote their services. New rules curtailing their use could hurt service providers such as Baidu, Tencent, and Meituan, which rely on such methods to promote their products and generate profit from advertisements.

  • The new rules also indicate tighter controls on content. Article 5.3 of the draft proposal said that unauthorized platforms aren’t allowed to send news information in notifications.  

Details: The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s internet regulator, has published the draft rules as part of a public consultation period until March 17.

  • The draft rules require service providers to not “abuse” notifications and pop-ups to sensationalize trending social issues or entertainment topics. 
  • They also dictate that notification and pop-up pushing service providers must publish content that adheres to the government’s “core values.”
  • Advertising via pop-up windows would be required to show a visible close button and carry a clear notice to users about the paid nature of the content, according to the draft regulations.
  • Service providers that don’t qualify for an internet news license (our translation) by CAC would be barred from pushing news notifications and pop-ups under the proposed rules.

Context: The draft regulations appear to be part of a coherent effort to “clean up” the Chinese internet content offerings after CAC’s new algorithm rules took effect at the start of March.

  • Chinese tech companies have been accused of abusing notifications and pop-ups and using them to excessively push commercial promotions or sensational content. Chinese Android phone users receive 100 notifications every day on average, according to an industry group Universal Push Association.
  • Such notifications and pop-ups can mislead people, according to Sina’s consumer complaints platform Heimao, especially the young and elderly who are susceptible to downloading unnecessary apps or committing to spending money on such platforms.