China issues fines to Baidu, Tencent and Sina Weibo; disrupts WhatsApp ahead of Communist Party Congress

China has announced it will issue fines of up to $75,600 to internet firms Tencent, Baidu and Sina Weibo under a new cybersecurity law.

The firms are being reprimanded with a somewhat symbolic amount of money due to their worth, for hosting fake news, pornography and other illegal content, some of which was stated to “promote ethnic hatred.”

Tencent is being targeted due to its WeChat app, Sina Weibo for microblogging site Weibo and Baidu for its online platform Teiba.

Regulators have stated WeChat, which is owned by Tencent, “failed to fulfil its management duty” to prevent users posting banned content.

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This fine is part of a crackdown on cybersecurity across mainland china ahead of the 19th Communist Party Congress to take place this October.

Earlier this year, a rule was announced placing WeChat group owners responsible for any and all content shared in their chat groups.

The three affected operators have been under investigation for cybersecurity violations since August.

In addition, WhatsApp, the only Facebook-owned service allowed in China, has been disrupted. Users noticed problems over the past week as service dropped in and out.

At times it was completely blocked but could be accessed through VPNs which circumvent China’s firewall – however many of these have since been blocked.

It has also been found within the last week that WhatsApp users can no longer share videos and photos outside of China.

This forms part of a 14-month campaign by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology which began in January and aims to “clean up” China’s internet connections by March 31st, 2018.

Sina Weibo was also affected by an earlier crackdown in June, resulting in a drop in shares and losses in advertising revenue.



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