China has started to investigate the top social media websites based in the country, including Weibo and WeChat, for not complying with its cyber laws. This is the government’s most recent push to secure the internet as well as maintain strict control over its content by the Communist Party.
China’s president Xi Jinping has made cyber sovereignty one of the government’s top priorities and reasserted the party’s role in guiding and limiting online discussion.
There has also been a tightening of surveillance leading up to the Community Party’s 19th National Congress later in 2017, when world attention will be on the world’s second largest economy.
Besides WeChat owned by Tencent Holdings and Weibo, the Cyberspace Administration of China announced that it was investigating Tieba the Baidu Inc. site over not complying with new, strict laws banning content which it deemed violent, obscene and offensive by the country’s ruling party.
The country’s regulator for cyberspace said that users are spreading terror, violence, pornography, false rumors and other things that put in hazard the national security, social order and public safety.
Baidu said it had deep regret over content that fell into those categories and would cooperate actively with the departments of the government to fix the issues as well as increase its auditing.
Weibo and Tencent did not make a comment when one was requested by email.
Shares of the firm, based in Hong Kong were down following the news, by close to 5%. Investors will now wait to see how shares of the firms listed in the U.S. will react.
Last month, an immediate rectification and cleaning was requested of all three during a meeting with government authorities, who cited different examples of illicit content that included rumors about officials in the party and misrepresenting the military history of China.
Prior to that meeting, Weibo was requested to close part of its video site due to violations, wiping away over $1.3 billion in stock between Weibo and its parent Sina Corp.
Regulators over the past few months have taken unprecedented and severe moves to eliminate content and media on a number of different platforms.
In May, new regulations were released for online sites that have news that expanded the curbs on content, while requiring services to be overseen by an editorial staff that was party sanctioned.
Social media sites in the West such as Twitter and Facebook have been banned by the censors in the country, which helped to in turn increase the popularity of WeChat the China based messaging app and Weibo the microblogging service.