China Tightens Controls for Online Videos

Three popular internet services in China have been ordered by officials to stop streaming video following complaints by censors that it contained comments that were improper related to sensitive issues.

The move caused a big sell-off in shares of Sina Corp traded in the U.S. and in Sina Weibo its microblog service.

The announcement on Thursday adds to the efforts of the government of President Xi Jinping to tighten the control of the media ahead of a congress of the Communist Party later this year. Xi is expected to be appointed to his second term of five years as the party leader.

Video streamed by the users of AcFun, and Sina Weibo contained comments deemed negative about sensitive issues that were no specified, said the government watchdog censor the State Administration of Publication, Press, Radio Film and Television.

The services were ordered to be stopped.

Leaders in the Communist Party promote use of internet for education and business but attempt to block access for material that it deems as being obscene or subversive.

Beijing is very wary of social media after it was sued by organizers during the 2010 Arab Spring widespread protests that included nearly all of the Middle East and led to the government of Tunisia and Egypt being overthrown.

Rules, which on June 1 took effect, ban foreign or private companies from disseminating news directly or investing in services that provide online news.

Those wanting to work with partners that are foreign must first undergo a thorough security check.

In January, officials in the government announced the start of a crackdown of 14 months on content delivery and cloud hosting services.

The ministry of technology said it is forbidden to use VPNs or virtual private networks and lines that are leased that circumvent filters by the government and access websites abroad that are banned.

After the announcement of the order on Thursday, Weibo Corp saw its shares drop over 6% on Nasdaq and Sina shares were down almost 5%.

Weibo Corp in a prepared statement said it was in communication with government authorities trying to understand the full scope of the government’s action. It will fully cooperate with the authorities as well, said the statement.

The main business for Sina Weibo is a microblog similar to Twitter in the U.S. It is one of the most popular social media services in the world, with more than 313 million monthly users as of last December.