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”.