China's Internet Giant Sina.com Loses Publication License For Publishing Pornography -- 20 Articles And Four Videos

from the red-line-of-law dept

One of the shrewder moves of the Chinese government was to allow home-grown startups like Alibaba, Baidu, Sina and Tencent to stand in for US Internet companies that were blocked in China. Sina is best-known for its Weibo service, the leading microblogging platform in China, and has featured several times on Techdirt as the Chinese authorities have tried to rein in the discussions there when they started straying into forbidden areas. Surprisingly, it's another division of Sina, its online publishing arm, that has just been hit by a serious punishment from the Chinese government:

China's Internet giant Sina.com will be stripped of its online publication license, a penalty that might partially ban its operations, after articles and videos on the site fell prey to the country's high-profile anti-porn movement.

According to a statement released on Thursday by the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications, 20 articles and four videos posted on Sina.com were confirmed to have contained lewd and pornographic content following "a huge amount" of public tip-offs.

As of result, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television decided to revoke the company's two crucial licenses on Internet publication and audio and video dissemination and impose "a large number of fines."

People suspected of criminal offenses in the case have been transferred to police organs for further investigation, the statement said.
That comes from an article published by Xinhua.net, the Chinese government's official news service, which therefore lends the following comment extra weight:
Last year, Sina.com received administrative punishments twice for spreading online publications with banned contents, and its latest offense seems to have pushed authorities over the edge, with the statement describing the website as "having not learned a lesson at all and turning a cold shoulder on social responsibility."

"[The website] overstepped the red line of law... and it must be punished in accordance with laws and regulations," it said.
Well, that may be, but it does seem curious that such a high-profile and popular Internet company should be so severely slapped down in public over just "20 articles and four videos" -- a tiny proportion of its total holdings. It's hard not to see this as a warning to all China's Internet companies to be careful. That interpretation is bolstered by another comment reported by Xinhua.net:
Meanwhile, the office warned other Internet service providers against similar errors, telling them to set up a comprehensive online info management system and check themselves for banned content.

Earlier this week, the country's "Cleaning the Web 2014" campaign saw 110 websites shut down and some 3,300 accounts on China-based social networking services as well as online forums deleted.

The office vowed to maintain a persistent crackdown on online pornography and hand down whatever punishments violators deserve, whether it be fines, license removals or pursuit of criminal liabilities.
This makes it clear that there is a crucial quid pro quo for China's giant Internet companies, no matter how big they have now become (in 2012, Alibaba's sales were bigger than those of Amazon and eBay combined): feel free to make big capitalist profits serving the huge demand for online services in China, but just remember never to overstep the state's "red line of law".

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Apr 30th, 2014 @ 3:22am

    The office vowed to maintain a persistent crackdown on online pornography and hand down whatever punishments violators deserve, whether it be fines, license removals or pursuit of criminal liabilities.

    Every time I read about people leashing out against porn it makes such individuals look like some frustrated morons that wouldn't be able to get sex from regular human beings at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Seegras (profile), Apr 30th, 2014 @ 3:43am

    Ah, yes, the book-burning movement in full swing

    The Minitrue says this never happened.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2014 @ 4:05am

    I don't see how this would affect Sina's USA servers. Their USA servers are only subject to USA laws. Sure, the Chinese government could make them shut down their Beijing servers, but their servers in Middletown, New Jersey are not subject to Chinese laws.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2014 @ 4:13am

    This is my favorite quote:

    "If you don't have Internet order, how can you have Internet freedom? Anyone enjoying and exercising their Internet rights and freedoms must not harm the public interest and cannot violate laws and regulations and public ethics,"

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/04/28/uk-china-internet-idUKBREA3R0G420140428

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2014 @ 4:15am

    Re:

    Their USA servers are only subject to USA laws.

    The USA expects foreign countries to act according to its laws, as Kim Dotcom will testify, so what are the chances of it acting on similar requests from foreign countries?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2014 @ 4:24am

    Re:

    How are people supposed to enjoy their freedom with all this freedom around?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2014 @ 4:30am

    Re: Re:

    Exactly. I couldn't have said it better myself. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Modern Technologies, Apr 30th, 2014 @ 4:48am

    China servers located WHERE?!

    Okay, so this part I don't get. You are China, the (at least) independent republic, you always brag about how you don't need the rest of the world, and such, and what do you do? You host your things on US soil ? Am I missing something here or is that pure non sense?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Violynne (profile), Apr 30th, 2014 @ 4:56am

    I'm smelling shenanigans from Chinese competition, which may have "uploaded" the "offending" material, then used this to report "multiple" times of the "infraction", forcing the service to close.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2014 @ 5:04am

    Re: Ah, yes, the book-burning movement in full swing

    well.. tbh they seem to have taken a page out of USA's nanny state manual and filled in the missing blanks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Apr 30th, 2014 @ 7:51am

    Re:

    I don't see how this would affect Sina's USA servers.

    They can probably block access to those from China. I doubt they're too concerned about people outside China being able to access them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2014 @ 11:06am

    Re:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-27191500

    "Internet companies will have to hand over users' data even if it is held abroad, a judge has ruled."

    That's how it affects the USA servers. The US can't have it both ways.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2014 @ 4:11pm

    Re: Re:

    Slim to none

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    myperbole (profile), Apr 30th, 2014 @ 9:27pm

    Please...

    Let the USA try to restrict porn. I'm praying for it. I can gorram guarantee that DC will be overrun by revolutionaries screaming "freedom!" Honestly, it might be the only way to get the Constitution back from the NSA. Plus hey, porn.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 1st, 2014 @ 8:23pm

    Re:

    They could punish the parent company for not complying with Chinese laws, even if the content isn't accessible to Chinese residents.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, May 2nd, 2014 @ 5:27am

    Re: Please...

    Many Republicans are doing exactly that. But, you know, the First Amendment. Plus legal precedents set by cases against Larry Flynt...

    Never gonna happen.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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