Weibo portals close for week following 'harmful content’ criticism from regulator

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/28 21:13:39

Portals that contained ‘harmful content’ shut down

China's Twitter-like Weibo closed several portals including its hot search channel and its celebrity's life forum on Saturday after being summoned by the country's internet regulator which ordered Weibo to overhaul its platform for failing to prevent the spread of "harmful content."

The Beijing office of the Cyberspace Administration of China on Saturday summoned Weibo's boss for talk concerning the company's failure to censor illegal information posted by its users, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The portals will remain closed for a week.

"Content containing wrong public opinion orientation, obscenity, low taste, and ethnic discrimination continued to spread on Sina Weibo," said a statement issued by the office.

"Sina Weibo has violated the country's laws and regulations, led online public opinion in the wrong direction and left a very bad influence," it said.

Wang Sixin, a law professor at the Communication University of China, told the Global Times that China has stepped up cyberspace governance in recent years.

The government has implemented a series of regulations, and its law enforcement capability has greatly improved especially in dealing with illegal activities that harm social order through manipulation on the internet, said Wang.

In response to the criticism, Weibo on Saturday night posted an announcement saying it accepted all criticism and had suspended several of its key portals including hot search, hot topics and celebrities' life. Weibo promised to improve the quality of content, increase investment in technology and hire more people to create a healthier and cleaner internet environment.

Weibo said that it had 376 million global monthly active users during the third quarter of 2017. 

Media reports show that some companies and agencies received payments to help other companies to be listed on Weibo's hot search portal. One online agency charged 8,000 yuan ($125) to get a topic or product on the top three of Weibo's hot search list. It gained 130,000 yuan from 108 such deals, news site reported last June.

Wang said that many products on the hot search list are fakes and scams and can be harmful to the health of users. Fake information could also mislead public opinion, harm certain groups and even result in severe social consequences, he added. 

This was not the first time Weibo has been the subject of criticism from internet regulators.

In April last year, the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications fined Weibo's operating company 30,000 yuan for spreading pornography.

China has shut down over 128,000 websites and confiscated 31 million illegal publications that were deemed to contain obscene content in 2017, the Legal Daily reported in January.

Xinhua contributed to this story

Newspaper headline: Weibo ordered to overhaul site


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