China fines Weibo for spreading ‘illegal information’

SINGAPORE — Chinese authorities say they have fined social media giant Weibo Corp. millions of dollars for a string of violations, the second time in two weeks that Beijing has announced sanctions against a major internet platform amid further tightening of online controls.

China’s Cyberspace Administration said on Tuesday that Weibo, like Twitter, had been fined 3 million yuan, or about $471,000, for spreading “illegal information,” which seriously violates the laws of China. Regulations include the country’s cybersecurity law and the law of the country. manage the protection of minors.

The internet regulator said its Beijing office fined Weibo more than 40 times for violations in the first 11 months of the year, resulting in a total fine of $2.2 million.

Weibo said the company accepts the penalty and will begin taking remedial measures, including removing soft pornography and misleading marketing content. The platform has 511 million monthly active users as of September 2020, the most recent number available on the company’s website.

The The company’s newly listed Hong Kong shares down nearly 10% in Tuesday’s trading. The Hang Seng Tech Index fell 2.3%.

Weibo’s latest punishment comes two weeks after the regulator fined, a popular online platform for discussing movies, entertainment and culture. 2 that Douban also disseminated content that violated the country’s cybersecurity regulations and fined it the equivalent of nearly $236,000. The agency said Douban was individually fined $1.4 million by the Beijing office for content violations in the first 11 months of the year.

Douban did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Authorities did not specify what specific content they deemed illegal in the case of either company.

Chinese authorities have tightened controls on internet content, news and other information in the run-up to President Xi Jinping’s expected coronation as senior leader. China’s leader for a precedent third term next year. Earlier this year, the country’s central economic planning agency revealed the plan to extend restrictions about the involvement of “non-republican capital” in the news industries — a move that analysts say has served as a warning for privately-funded news organizations to step between approved boundaries.

The penalties for Weibo and Douban also come later an explosive post on the Weibo account of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai accusing a former deputy prime minister of sexual assault.

Video released by Chinese state media journalists shows tennis star Peng Shuai making her first public appearance after she disappeared in early November. Peng has caused global concern following allegations of assault. sex work for a retired senior Chinese official. Photo: Twitter / HuXijin_GT

The post appeared on Ms Peng’s account on November 2 and remained visible for about 20 minutes before disappearing. Searches for her account were blocked on Weibo, and her name was censored on many Chinese Internet networks. Some of the biggest tennis stars in the world posted Twitter messages asking about her whereabouts, and the Women’s Tennis Association later announced that suspend all events in China worried for her safety., whose users are known for deploying clever internet jargon and roundabout language to evade censors, is one of the few platforms on the Chinese internet that hosts active discussions. about Peng’s predicament, if only for a short time.

Xiao Qiang, a researcher focusing on China’s internet at the University of California, Berkeley, said penalties are only likely to get heavier as the Communist Party relies on platforms for police to discuss face-to-face. line to increasingly stringent standards.

“Chinese censorship is like a mole,” he said. “Can’t stop more than 800 million internet users from talking.”

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