China’s largest social media platforms are under investigation

By Catherine Sturman

With recent news that Apple has removed its VPN apps from the Apple Store, which have been used to skirt round China’s strict censorship rulings, three of the largest social media platforms are now in the firing line.

With strict censorship laws, which were updated two months ago, blogging site Weibo, Tencent’s messaging site WeChat and online forum Tieba have now been reported to be under investigation for breaching the country’s cybersecurity rulings, with the aim to restrict user access to information which the country believes is untrue, violent, malicious and obscene.

The Cyberspace Administration of China is the central point to enforce such laws, and are now monitoring apps which have large audiences and significant potential to influence its users.

Consequently, the Administration has stated that the three social media giants have failed in their duties to monitor the content on its sites, “jeopardising national security” and is responsible for "spreading violence, terror, false rumours, pornography and other hazards to national security, public safety and social order."

Approximately 60 popular gossip magazines have also been ordered to close, alongside social media accounts, and Weibo has also recently been asked to close some of its video site, eliminating over $1 billion of stock, according to Reuters.

China’s internet services are one of the most censored worldwide, with strict Communist controls which have contained how both internal and external companies can grow, and blocking content it deems to go against its censorship model.

Apple has abided by China’s governmental laws and eliminated all unlicensed VPN’s on its App Store, Baidu remains the most popular search engine over Google, and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are banned, and do not pass through the country’s “Great Firewall.”

As a result of the news, Baidu’s shares have gone down approximately 5%, leading the company to release a statement, stating it felt “deep regret” and will "actively cooperate with government departments to rectify the issue and increase the intensity of auditing."

 Business Review Asia Magazine - August issue

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