China internet regulator fines websites over reporting

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s internet regulator has fined several websites for violating internet publication rules and ordered them to “rectify” pages that ran news stories based on their own reporting, state media reported on Monday.

A woman uses an app on a mobile phone at a cafe in Beijing, China, April 11, 2016. REUTERS/Shirley Feng/File Photo

Government rules prohibiting the publication of “self-edited” news and information by websites that were not set up by news entities have been widely ignored, with many websites running robust reporting operations.

Websites run by Sina Corp, Inc, Netease Inc, Phoenix New Media Ltd’s iFeng and others had engaged in “actions that seriously violated regulations and had a completely vile effect”, state media reported, quoting the Beijing municipal arm of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC).

The sites were ordered to “rectify” their wrongdoing and slapped with administrative fines, it said.

One report by the Beijing Times that was widely re-published, including by the websites of the state news agency Xinhua and the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said several pages on Sina, Sohu, Netease and iFeng had been shut down.

“All the (items) that were shut down or cleaned up included websites and web pages, mobile clients, public WeChat accounts and other platforms for propagation,” the Beijing Times said.

The Cyberspace Administration did not reply immediately to faxed questions.

Calls to Sina were not answered and the company did not respond immediately to emailed requests for a comment. Calls to Netease and iFeng were not answered.

A Sohu spokeswoman declined to comment.

President Xi Jinping has presided over a crackdown on dissent and has sought to strengthen the Party’s control over the flow of news and information.

This month, the CAC said it was launching a crackdown on the reporting of news gathered from social media, as part of what the government calls a campaign against fake news and the spreading of rumours.

Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Robert Birsel