Ultimatum for Sina website by China’s Government over poor censorship

April 13, 2015 3:28 pm

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo / AP

’s Government has threatened to shut down Sina, one of the
country’s most popular websites unless it “improves censorship”.
The
online portal “distorted news facts, violated morality and engaged in
media hype”, the official Xinhua news agency on Saturday cited the
Cyberspace Administration of China as saying.
The CAC will
“seriously” punish Sina, with possible measures including “a complete
shutdown of its internet news services”, Xinhua added.
A little over a month after Chinese authorities moved to crack down
on discussion of “Under The Dome,” the viral documentary which
highlighted China’s pollution problem, and less than a week after Turkey
banned social media after photos depicting now deceased prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz with a gun to his head showed up on Facebook and Twitter, free
speech is yet again under attack in emerging markets as Beijing has
reportedly threatened to shut down Sina Weibo which China’s internet
czar claims is disseminating false information, providing a platform for
terrorists, questioning the “facts,” not exercising enough censorship,
and, much like the townsfolk of colonial era Salem, “propagating
heresy”.

Here’s WSJ with more:

The regulator’s statement said since the start of the year, 6,038
complaints against Sina were made, including 1,227 in just the first
eight days of this month alone, which was more than any other major
website had received.

Complaints centered on the spreading of rumors,
information related to violent terrorism, obscenity, pornography, fraud,
or the propagating of heresy, the statement said.
In China, heresy generally refers to religious groups that aren’t approved by Beijing, such as the Falun Gong.

Sina had “distorted news facts, violated morality and engaged in media hype,” the statement said.

The regulator also said Sina wasn’t adequately censoring its users accounts and had at times rushed to spread false information…

The regulator’s officials asked Sina to rectify the situation and
warned that if its efforts were deemed insufficient or if more problems
arose in the process, it would seek severe punishment for the company, including the suspension of its online news services.

The statement said Sina’s representatives pledged to strengthen
censorship and strictly offer its services in accordance with the law,
while working to spread “positive energy” as it “conscientiously bears
the social responsibility of Internet media.”

And as FT reminds us, blogging in China can be dangerous as you may end up at the center of a prostitution sting:

Sina has previously run into trouble with its Twitter-like Sina Weibo service, which it listed on Nasdaq in the US last year.

Several high-profile Weibo bloggers boasting millions of
followers each have had their accounts shut down or have been warned not
to post anything that might show the ruling Communist party or its
leaders in a bad light.

One famous blogger was arrested for visiting prostitutes
in a widely publicised sting operation that was cited by officials as a
warning to other bloggers to restrain their online comments.

Since coming to power in late 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping
has overseen a strict tightening of control over the media and public
discourse and a tough ideological campaign against the perceived dangers
of “western ideas”.

So we guess the moral of the story here is that if Sina intends to
keep its users out of prostitution stings, it will take the censorship
up a notch in order to prevent possible heretics from using their “free”
speech privileges to twist Beijing’s “facts” in a way that does not
facilitate the spread of “positive energy.”

China’s
government has warned it will shut down one of the country’s largest
and most popular online news services if it does not “improve
censorship”.

Late on Friday, executives from Nasdaq-listed Sina,
which runs China’s fourth most visited website, were summoned to a
meeting with the Cyberspace Administration of China and lambasted for
spreading “illegal information” and “violating morality”, according to a
statement from CAC.

Sina
was accused of not properly censoring user accounts as well as
“engaging in media hype” and allowing the spread of “rumours”,
pornography and “messages advocating heresies”, a reference to banned
religious movements such as Falun Gong.

The CAC oversees the world’s most sophisticated online censorship regime, which already relies heavily on self-censorship and compliance from major internet companies such as Sina, but it is rare for it to publicly reprimand one of them.

In the meeting on Friday, Sina executives promised to intensify
censorship of their websites and publish more information that displayed
“positive energy”, the CAC said.

Sina’s chairman and spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.

With 650m users, China has the world’s largest online population, but global sites such as Twitter, Google, Gmail, Facebook and YouTube are blocked in the country, making the Chinese internet more akin to a giant intranet.
Sina has previously run into trouble with its Twitter-like Sina Weibo service, which it listed on Nasdaq in the US last year.

Several high-profile Weibo bloggers boasting millions of followers
each have had their accounts shut down or have been warned not to post
anything that might show the ruling Communist party or its leaders in a
bad light.

One famous blogger was arrested for visiting prostitutes in a widely
publicised sting operation that was cited by officials as a warning to
other bloggers to restrain their online comments.

Since coming to power in late 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has
overseen a strict tightening of control over the media and public
discourse and a tough ideological campaign against the perceived dangers
of “western ideas”.

In its World Press Freedom Index 2015, Reporters Without Borders
ranked China 176th out of 180 countries, down one place from a year
earlier.

According to the report, the only countries with a worse media
environment than China’s are Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and
Eritrea.

China established the State Internet Information Office in 2011 to
tighten party control over the internet in response to online calls for
demonstrations in the country to mimic the uprisings of the Arab Spring.

The office was renamed the Cyberspace Administration of China last
year, following President Xi’s decision in late 2013 to establish and
personally lead a special Communist party committee to oversee all
matters relating to the internet.

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