Chinese authorities have fined major internet companies – Sina, Baidu and Tencent – for failing to purge banned content on their social networking platforms.

A notice issued by the Beijing internet regulator on Monday said that Sina Weibo – a widely-used microblogging platform – was handed the heaviest fine possible under a new cybersecurity law that was implemented in June.

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It said it found “pornographic content, content propagating ethnic hatred, and related comments” on the platform.

The Cyberspace Administration also said that it found pornographic, violent and terrorism-related content on Baidu Tieba, a popular online forum, and decided to issue heavy fines to the company.

In a separate statement, the internet regulator in Guangdong said that it would also issue the maximum fine to Tencent, the firm behind the most popular messaging app in China.

It said that public accounts on WeChat were found to be circulating violent, terror-related, and pornographic content, as well as false information.

The notice cited a spokesperson as saying that “the internet is not outside the law, and internet regulators will conscientiously implement the cybersecurity law and other laws and regulations, and increase local law enforcement in overseeing online content.”

According to the articles of the cybersecurity law cited in the notice, those who violate it could receive fines of up to RMB 500,000 (HK$590,724). Operators could also have their business operations shut down or suspended if they fail to halt the transmission of banned content.

Chinese authorities launched an investigation into the three companies for failing to regulate violent, fake, or pornographic content last month. A statement made by the Cyberspace Administration at the time said that some of the content harmed national security and public order.

The Administration also published new regulations at the end of August ordering internet platforms to verify users’ identity before letting them post content online as part of the new cybersecurity law.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.