China’s online watchdog has launched an investigation into reports of multiple violations at news services run by Tencent, Baidu and Weibo, as the government continues to tighten scrutiny over Internet content.
The Cyberspace Administration of China said on Friday that it’s instructed its Beijing and Guangdong branches to look into reports that some of the country’s largest online services are carrying user-generated content laden with “violence, porn, rumours” disruptive to social order. It didn’t specify what actions may be taken, and Tencent, Baidu and Weibo had no immediate comment on the notice.
China has applied increasing pressure over Internet media in the run-up to an important Communist Party congress later this year that is expected to consolidate President Xi Jinping’s authority.
Intent on muzzling potential sources of disruptive information, the government has shut live-streaming services and websites, tightened regulations governing Internet access and issued repeated warnings about the need to clean up content through various agencies. Observers say the enhanced scrutiny is also characteristic of Xi’s administration.
The latest probe centres on three of the country’s largest repositories of online musings, all with hundreds of millions of users: Tencent’s WeChat messaging service, Weibo’s Twitter-like blog and Baidu’s Tieba forums.
Last month, Beijing scrubbed memorial photos of Liu Xiaobo from WeChat and Weibo, following the long-imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize-winning writer’s death in mid-July. Liu was an author of Charter 08, a document calling for democracy in China, and Beijing aimed to smother that intellectual legacy.
Shares of Tencent fell 4% as of midday in Hong Kong. The company is one-third owned by South African media and e-commerce group Naspers. — (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP