Beijing Levies Web Penalties Over Banned Content -- WSJ

By Josh Chin Features Dow Jones Newswires

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (September 26, 2017).

Continue Reading Below

BEIJING -- Chinese internet regulators said they have hit operators of three of the country's biggest social-media platforms with the maximum fine allowable under a new cybersecurity law for hosting fake news, pornography and other forms of banned content.

The Cyberspace Administration of China didn't disclose the amount of the fines handed down to the platforms, which are owned in whole or part by China's three internet giants: Tencent Holdings Ltd., Baidu Inc. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

The cybersecurity law says network operators can be fined up to 500,000 yuan ($75,000) and have operations suspended or business licenses canceled, for failing to stop the transmission of prohibited content.

The agency said Tencent's hugely popular WeChat app "failed to fulfill its management duty" in ensuring users of its public accounts didn't post illegal content.

In a separate statement, the agency said search giant Baidu's Teiba message board and the Twitter-like microblogging site Weibo Corp., partly owned by Alibaba, had similarly failed to prevent their users from spreading damaging information.

Continue Reading Below

Tencent said that it "sincerely accepted" the punishment and would improve its management of WeChat according government guidelines.

Baidu referred to a statement it made in August, when the initial investigation was announced, in which the company apologized to users and promised to fix any problems. Weibo didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Unless accompanied by other forms of punishment, a single fine of 500,000 yuan is unlikely to leave a scratch on any of the companies. Tencent pulled in $21.9 billion in revenue in 2016. Baidu notched revenues of $10.2 billion last year, while Weibo took in $656 million.

A formal investigation into the three platforms was launched in August after a preliminary probe found their users passing around content that regulators said threatened national security and public order.

"The internet is not a land outside the law," the Cyberspace Administration of China said Monday.

Yang Jie contributed to this article.

Write to Josh Chin at josh.chin@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications Weibo was among the social-media companies fined by Chinese regulators under a new cybersecurity law. A headline and caption on an earlier version of this article incorrectly said Alibaba had been fined. Alibaba owns part of Weibo but was not itself fined. Also, Weibo's revenue for 2016 was $656 million. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said it was $213 million. (Sept. 25)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 26, 2017 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)