China probes so­cial me­dia plat­forms for ‘ob­scen­ity’

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

China has launched probes into three of its largest so­cial net­work­ing plat­forms over the sus­pected dis­sem­i­na­tion of vi­o­lence and ob­scen­ity-the lat­est move aimed at san­i­tiz­ing the country’s in­creas­ingly closed-off in­ter­net.

The world’s most pop­u­lar mes­sag­ing ser­vice WeChat, the Twit­ter-like Weibo as well as the Tieba dis­cus­sion fo­rum are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, ac­cord­ing to an an­nounce­ment from the Cy­berspace Ad­min­is­tra­tion of China on Fri­day. Cit­ing re­ports from in­ter­net users, the ad­min­is­tra­tion said other users on WeChat, Weibo and Tieba’s plat­forms “have dis­sem­i­nated con­tent show­ing vi­o­lence, ter­ror­ism, fake ru­mors, ob­scene pornog­ra­phy and more”.

Such ma­te­ri­als “en­dan­ger na­tional se­cu­rity, public se­cu­rity and the so­cial or­der” and are il­le­gal un­der a cy­ber­se­cu­rity law that came into force in June, the agency said.

The com­pa­nies ac­knowl­edged the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in state­ments Fri­day, and all three apol­o­gized to their users for any “neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences” caused by ma­te­rial that “cor­rupted” the so­cial net­works.

“Weibo is deeply aware of its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” the site said. “The next step for us will be to up­grade our tech­nol­ogy and ar­ti­fi­cial con­trol mea­sures to com­bat... un­de­sir­able con­tent, con­tin­u­ing to en­hance our abil­ity to find and dis­pose of bad in­for­ma­tion, guide and en­cour­age users to re­port (such con­tent) and in­ten­sify ef­forts to man­age it.”

China’s in­ter­net is al­ready con­sid­ered one of the most tightly-con­trolled in the world, with a cen­sor­ship sys­tem known as the “Great Fire­wall”. But re­stric­tive mea­sures have mul­ti­plied in re­cent months, as celebrity gos­sip blogs and on­line video stream­ing sites alike have fallen vic­tim to the new web reg­u­la­tions.

Last month, the Cy­berspace Ad­min­is­tra­tion di­rected the country’s big­gest tech­nol­ogy firm­sin­clud­ing Baidu, Ten­cent and Sohu-to shut down ac­counts on their net­works that pub­lish “bad in­for­ma­tion”. The con­tent was deemed to mis­in­ter­pret pol­icy di­rec­tives and dis­tort Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party his­tory. An­other man­date in the new cy­ber­se­cu­rity law re­quires on­line plat­forms to get a li­cense to post news re­ports or com­men­tary about the govern­ment, econ­omy, mil­i­tary, for­eign af­fairs and so­cial is­sues. There has also been in­creas­ing con­cern among in­ter­net users that they will com­pletely lose ac­cess to vir­tual pri­vate net­works (VPN), soft­ware which al­lows peo­ple to cir­cum­vent the Great Fire­wall.

In Jan­uary China’s Min­istry of In­dus­try and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy (MIIT) an­nounced it would be ban­ning the use of un­li­censed VPN providers. While there has been lit­tle clar­ity on what ex­actly the rule meant and how, or even if, it would be im­ple­mented, Ap­ple said last month that it was re­mov­ing VPNs from its China app store.

“The Red Guard gen­er­a­tion is in power now,” one Weibo com­menter said of the lat­est in­ves­ti­ga­tion, al­lud­ing to a 1960s youth para­mil­i­tary move­ment that tor­mented and at­tacked peo­ple whom they per­ceived to be op­posed to Mao Ze­dong’s Cul­tural Revolution. —AFP

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