Internet censorship in China could be about to get much worse.
The country on Monday passed a new cybersecurity bill that may have severe implications for both Chinese internet users and international tech companies, reports Reuters. These new measures will come into effect June 2017.
On the privacy front, the final draft of the bill stated that "critical information infrastructure operators" -- tech companies in and outside China -- are required to store their data on users on servers in the country.
The publication adds that the draft requires that these companies give "technical support" to security firms and pass national security standards. Additionally, companies that operate within China will be legally bound to enforce censorship, and will be held responsible for content spread through their platforms.
The People's Republic is the world's biggest internet market, with around 700 million users -- double the entire population of the United States. However, users in the country are restricted from platforms such as Facebook and Google, and international companies .
"If online speech and privacy are a bellwether of Beijing's attitude toward peaceful criticism, everyone -- including netizens in China and major international corporations -- is now at risk," said Sophie Richardson China Director of the Human Rights Watch.
"This law's passage means there are no protections for users against serious charges."
Chinese officials, however, argue that the new laws will benefit users. Xinhua, the country's state-run press agency, said the new measures hope to protect the information of Chinese internet users, as well as to reduce instances of fraud.
Zhao Zeliang, director-general of China's Cyberspace Administration's cybersecurity bureau, refuted claims that the new laws are designed to make life difficult for international companies. "Any company that wants to come in, as long as they obey Chinese laws, serve the interests [of] Chinese consumers, we welcome them," he said at a news conference, according to the Associated Press.