On August 11, China’s internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China, accused China’s top three internet giants — Tencent, Baidu, and Sina — of potentially violating the Cybersecurity Law and launched an investigation. On September 25, Chinese authorities released the investigation results and imposed maximum fines on the three companies.
According to statements issued by the internet regulators in Beijing and Guangdong respectively, the three tech giants failed to properly manage their social media platforms — Tencent’s WeChat, Sina’s Weibo, and Baidu’s Tieba — as some of their users “spread information of violence and terror, false rumors, pornography, and other information that jeopardizes national security, public safety, and social order.”
The regulators said that all three companies had violated Article 47 of the Cybersecurity Law:
Network operators shall strengthen management of information published by users, and upon discovering information that the law or administrative regulations prohibits the publication or transmission of, they shall immediately stop transmission of that information, employ handling measures such as deleting it, to prevent the information from spreading, save relevant records, and report it to the relevant competent departments.
Although none of the regulators specified the exact amount of the fines, the statements mentioned that the amount was calculated based on Article 68, which says fines could be up to 500,000 yuan ($76,000).
In addition, the regulators demanded that all three companies “resolutely” remove all users who publish illegal information.
The regulator in Guangdong said, “The internet is not place beyond law. The regulator will scrupulously implement the Cybersecurity Law and other regulations, and increase the supervision of online contents.”
As The Diplomat has been following, ahead of the 19th Party Congress, China has significantly increased information control and has been cracking down on social media. On August 25, the Cyberspace Administration of China announced rules forbidding unidentified netizens from posting on internet platforms or online communities. Days after the new rules were issued, Sina Weibo required all its users to register with real names by September 15. On September 7, the authorities issued more detailed rules, demanding all group administrators and owners of public accounts regulate the conduct of their group members and the information posted in groups accordingly.