ibusinesslines.com August 19, 2017

China probes Weibo, Baidu, Tencent over illicit content

12 August 2017, 12:55 | Jodi Jackson

Policy China’s Internet Regulators Investigate WeChat Weibo and Baidu Causing Fresh Concern Yiling Pan @SiennaPan

Policy China’s Internet Regulators Investigate WeChat Weibo and Baidu Causing Fresh Concern Yiling Pan @SiennaPan

Shares of Naspers fell more than 3% to four-week lows on Friday after China launched an investigation into its top social media sites, including the South African media company's subsidiary Tencent's WeChat.

President Xi Jinping has made China's "cyber sovereignty" a top priority and has also reasserted the ruling party's role in limiting and guiding online discussion.

Recently, the Cyberspace Administration of China directed its authorities in both the city of Beijing and Guangdong province to carry out investigations of Tencent's WeChat, Sina Weibo and Baidu Tieba in accord with the law.

The social media sites are accused of being used to spread rumours, obscenities and terrorism-related content, "jeopardising national security" according to the administration.

But despite the tight surveillance and censorship, dissent still bubbles away and, ahead of a highly sensitive Communist Party Congress this autumn, the authorities are tightening those controls further.

Baidu said it had deep regret over content that fell into those categories and would cooperate actively with the departments of the government to fix the issues as well as increase its auditing. Investors will now wait to see how shares of the firms listed in the US will react.

Shares of Tencent, a $380 billion company, plunged almost 5% in Hong Kong after the announcement Friday.

Last month, an immediate rectification and cleaning was requested of all three during a meeting with government authorities, who cited different examples of illicit content that included rumors about officials in the party and misrepresenting the military history of China.

In recent months, regulators have taken severe and unprecedented action to shutter content and media across a variety of platforms.

The latest probe centers on three of the country's largest repositories of online musings, all with hundreds of millions of users: Tencent's WeChat (微信) messaging service, Weibo's Twitter-like blog and Baidu's Tieba (貼吧) forums. In May, it released regulations for online news sites and network portals that expanded curbs on content and required all services to be overseen by party-sanctioned editorial staff.

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