China continues to crack down on online media after the government announced that it is investigating three of the country’s most influential social networks for hosting illicit content.
The Office for Cyberspace Administration is looking into content on chat app WeChat, micro-blogging platform Weibo and web forum Baidu Tieba, each of which stands accused of failing to stamp out material that “jeopardised national security,” the BBC reports.
Principally that includes content related to terrorism, pornography and other obscenities, the office said. Companies like Tencent, which is Asia’s most valuable tech company, and Weibo already aggressively police content on their platforms, but evidently aren’t doing so at a level that pleases the government.
The crackdown follows the closure in June of around 60 celebrity gossip accounts on WeChat, China’s largest messaging app with over 600 million users. The influential accounts were accused of disseminating similarly illegal content. The agency said at the time that media should “actively propagate core socialist values, and create an ever-more healthy environment for the mainstream public opinion.”
Today’s news follows a major setback for free speech in China when Apple pulled a range of popular VPN apps from its Chinese App Store. The apps allow people to circumvent China’s ‘Great Fire Wall’ internet censorship system, but Beijing has outlawed any that do not operate with government-approved permits.
China recently upgraded its censorship apparatus to add new capabilities that have allow it to partially disrupt communications made through WhatsApp and WeChat. That’s of course in addition to blocking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google as well as media including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
China’s implemented new cybersecurity laws on June 1 and, though the full scope is unclear, they are believed to have the potential to impact foreign businesses. Apple is among the first to have moved accordingly after it announced plans to develop its first datacenter in China to comply with the regulations.