China punishes Sina Weibo social media for communication interference

Sina Weibo punished
The Weibo logo is seen at the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square in celebration of its initial public offering (IPO) on The NASDAQ Stock Market in New York April 17, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/Files

HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s internet regulator on Wednesday ordered the Sina Weibo social media platform to disable some of its features for a week, rare punishment for what it said was interference with online communication, among other things.

Top internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China, said in a post on its verified WeChat Account it had reprimanded Weibo for “interfering with online communication order, disseminating illegal information and other problems”.

Weibo will need to stop updating its lists showing the most popular search terms and topics being discussed on the platform for a week from Wednesday, the CAC said, adding it had asked its Beijing branch to fine Weibo.

Weibo did not immediately respond when contacted by Reuters for comment.

The CAC said that the violations related to a case involving a person with the surname Jiang, without going into further details.

It was not clear whose communications Weibo is being punished for interfering with but it comes after a senior Alibaba Group executive’s relationship with a prominent social media influencer came under scrutiny by Sina Weibo users in April, some of whom complained at the time that their posts were being censored.

The executive, Jiang Fan, was later demoted after an internal investigation.

Alibaba did not immediately reply when contacted by Reuters for comment.

The government heavily regulates its cyberspace and often scrubs content like violence, pornography, or political sensitive speeches from social media.

In 2018, Weibo temporarily took offline some of its portals like its hot search site and portal on celebrities and their personal lives after being reprimanded by the CAC for spreading what it said was obscene content.

(Reporting by Pei Li)

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