Sina Weibo ordered to suspend online portals

The Chinese government has ordered the social media site to move portals offline for a week after spreading 'obscene and wrongly oriented content'.
Written by Jonathan Chadwick, Contributor

China's Sina Weibo has been ordered to move several of its portals offline for a week for spreading "obscene and wrongly oriented content", according to the country's internet watchdog.

"Content of wrong public opinion orientation, obscenity, and ethnic discrimination continued to spread on Sina Weibo," the Beijing office of the Cyberspace Administration of China said in a statement on Saturday.

In a separate statement, Weibo said it was suspending key portals such as its hot search site and portal on celebrities for a week.

The Chinese government has been tightening controls over internet content in an effort to maintain "social stability", targeting "vulgar" and pornographic content and the unauthorised dissemination of news.

In China, spreading fake news on social media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat can result in criminal punishment of between three to seven years of jail time, as stipulated by an amendment made to Chinese law in 2015.

China shut down 128,000 websites that contained obscene and "harmful" information last year, the official Xinhua news agency reported earlier this month, citing government data.

Last year, portals run by Tencent, Baidu, and Weibo were reprimanded and fined by China's internet regulator for failing to properly censor content ahead of a major conference of the Chinese Communist Party. It also blocked Facebook-owned WhatsApp ahead of the gathering.

The Chinese government has long controlled online speech through censorship and blocking numerous websites such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube in favour of more restrictive localised versions such as Baidu, Tencent's WeChat, and Sina Weibo.

China has also been cracking down on VPN apps so that Chinese citizens cannot circumvent censorship of such sites. China is requiring its big three phone carriers to block access to VPNs by next month in a campaign aimed at "cleaning and standardising" access to the internet.

Humans Rights Watch previously said that internet control in China "has reached new heights" since Xi became president in March 2013, with the government criminalising the "spreading of rumors" about natural disasters and virtual private networks being described as "terrorist software".

Last July, images of the late Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights campaigner Liu Xiaobo were blocked in direct messages between users on WeChat and Weibo. Throughout his life, Liu called for political reforms, and was imprisoned in 2009 on charges of subversion for calling for democracy in China.

China also forced overseas journals to remove access to sensitive papers and book reviews on topics such as Tibet, Taiwan, and the 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square as part of its efforts to strengthen controls over academia.

With AAP




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