China investigates Baidu, Tencent, Weibo for breaching laws

WeChat, Weibo Among Targets in China Cybersecurity Probe

In the Communist Party's latest push to maintain control of the internet inside China's borders, the Office for Cyberspace Administration is investigating Weibo, Baidu Tieba and WeChat.

China's cyber regulator on Friday said it was investigating the country's top social media sites over failing to comply with strict laws that ban content which is violent, obscene or deemed offensive to the Communist Party.

The investigation of China's own social media sites will probably prompt them to do even more to curate their content, further narrowing the Chinese population's ability to protest.

The CAC will continue to crack down on illegal online behavior and welcomes reports from the public.

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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.

With popular Western sites like Facebook and Twitter banned inside China, home-grown alternatives like Weibo are incredibly popular. [The agency] welcomes tips about violations of laws and regulations from the expanse of web users, and the online report center for harmful information operates 24 hours a day.

Naspers, a 1.2 trillion rand ($88.95 billion) multinational with private equity-style investments, owes much of its valuation to the $33 million investment it made in 2001 to take a stake in Tencent, which is now China's biggest internet company with a $334 billion market capitalization. The crackdown further spread to the booming live-streaming industry, which has become the core business for companies like Weibo.

There has also been a tightening of surveillance leading up to the Community Party's 19 National Congress later in 2017, when world attention will be on the world's second largest economy. President Xi Jinping is about to complete his five-year term and expects to renew it. The oversight of online media content should alert global luxury brands, which now heavily rely on these social media apps to operate their business in China.