China’s most censored social media company has been fined for not doing enough censorship

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But in the view of the Chinese Communist Party, it has not been adequately censored and a price must be paid.

This is the first time that Weibo has been fined so much by the government. In the first 11 months of this year, the social media company was fined 44 times for violations, totaling $ 2.2 million, according to the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC).

Weibo “accepts criticism honestly” from the regulator in a statement and has set up a task force to respond to the fine.

Chinese social media company Weibo has been fined by the regulator for publishing illegal information

Douban, a popular site for reviewing movies, books and music, was recently fined $ 236,000 on a similar charge two weeks after Weibo was recently fined $ 1.4 million since November this year for blatant content violations.

Chinese Internet companies have long been subject to government repression, and their executives have often been called by the CAC “for criticism and correction.” But analysts say it is rare for government regulators to openly advise sites to do a bad job of auditing.

“The first step in auditing is that you can’t talk about auditing [by the government]”Eric Liu, an analyst at China’s Digital Times, an audit monitoring the U.S.-based news website China, said.

Announcing the sentences against Weibo and Dupan, Liu said the Communist Party was deliberately “bringing it out” indicating that such harsh punishment would become a regular occurrence.

In addition to government censorship, Chinese Internet companies also employ dedicated appraisers of the police on their own sites, removing illegal or malicious content by the party ranging from pornography, violence and fraud to criticism of the government and other information that the party considers “political”. Sensitivity such as LGBTQ content “or” morally degraded “.

Liu, Analyst, previously served as Content Auditor at Weibo from 2011 to 2013. During this period, he compiled more than 800 files of audit orders issued to the company. But nowadays, orders from internet controllers are delivered very intelligently through the most secure channels, making it very difficult for employees to leak them.

“Now it’s the audit of the audit. The auditors are being watched,” he said.

Under President Xi Jinping, the party has tightened its grip The Internet is subject to Western intrusion. A decade ago, Weibo held lively public debates on various social issues, and liberal-oriented public intellectuals were able to develop large followers.

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But it turned out to be under Xi. Today most liberal voices are silenced. Feminism, the LGBTQ movement, and environmental advocacy topics are viewed with suspicion as mercenaries of Western influence, with auditors struggling to keep up with the ever-expanding list of “sensitive words” or forbidden words.

While working at Liu Weibo, the company employs about 200 content reviewers, he said. With the platform now having more than half a billion active users per month, Liu expects the number to multiply.

“As network traffic increases, so does the pressure on auditing. Within the Great Firewall, everyone faces harsher and more severe censorship much like inflation,” he said, referring to the country’s sophisticated internet audit system.

“Auditing is expanding everywhere, which means companies need to hire more people.” This will become a huge financial burden, especially for small companies, Liu said.

Sarah Cook, director of research for China at the US nonprofit Freedom House, said the recent fines were part of the Communist Party’s current campaign to “pressure technology companies to more strictly control the content on their sites.”

“This is an almost impossible task for sites like User Size and constantly changing the red lines, but these kinds of occasional fines and ‘adjusting’ attempts keep them on their toes and encourage them to carry out Communist Party censorship.”

Although the Internet regulator did not specify which content Weibo and Douban were fined for, analysts believe they may be linked to the #MeToo scandal surrounding Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai.

Peng, 35, publicly accused former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gouli of sexual harassment in Weibo on November 2. His post was deleted within 30 minutes and blocked from his Weibo account searches, but screen shots of his post were still widely circulated on social media and in private. Before chat groups are censored. Despite the auditors’ best efforts to clear up all the controversy and vague references to his allegations from the internet, quotes and hidden debates appear from time to time including Weibo and Dupan.

“It appears that this time Weibo is being punished for the Peng Shuai scandal, which is the biggest audit campaign of the year,” Liu said. But Chinese officials will not initially admit that Peng was censored, he said.

“We all know that some posts have been censored, but no one dares to ask why anymore. Even discussing which posts have been censored has already become a very scary and provocative act.”

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