Chinese Government Threatens Sina Over Poor Self-Censorship

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The Chinese government has publicly threatened to close down the online news services of Sina, one of the country’s largest Internet groups, unless Sina “improves censorship.”

Along with a massive team of government employees, self-censorship by online operators is a major plank of China’s control of the Internet within its own borders.

The Cyberspace Administration of China said that “Sina has spread illegal information related to rumors, violence and terrorism, pornography, swindling, advocation of heresies and has distorted news facts, violated morality and engaged in media hype.” It reported that it had received over 6,000 complaints from users.

The CAC also said that Sina’s “censorship of user accounts has been poor, undermining online order and damaging public interests.”

Together these are taken as meaning that the company has been weak at policing its Weibo chat and messaging service, allowing user comments that differ from government policy on matters such as outlawed religious movement Falun Gong or separatist tendencies in Xinjiang province.

The official news agency Xinhua reported over the weekend that the CAC summoned Sina’s bosses to a meeting late on Friday and warned them of serious punishments including a complete shut-down of its Internet news services.

In response, Sina’s bosses promised to “intensify censorship” and publish more information with “positive energy.”

Both Sina and Sina Weibo are listed on the NASDAQ stock market in New York. The CAC threat emerged after the market had closed on Friday.

In a separate move, Xinhua reported on Friday that the National Anti-Pornography and Anti-Illegal Publications Office had launched a new crackdown on pornography and illegal publications and had set up an account on Sina Weibo for users to tip off the authorities to online abuses.

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