China set to punish web giant Sina for pornography

BEIJING (AP) -- China plans to revoke two crucial publication licenses for, which might partially ban the web giant's operations, because obscene content was found during an anti-pornography crackdown, state media said Thursday.

Sina apologized for "the suspected problem" of pornographic content on its literature and video sites. It said in a statement on its website that it felt "sorry and ashamed" for lax monitoring and that it had moved quickly to rectify the problem.

Citing a statement from the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications, the official Xinhua News Agency said authorities had found 20 articles and four videos containing pornographic and lewd content following public tip-offs. Some people are being investigated by police as a result, it said.

"Some of these articles were as long as 500-plus chapters and clocked millions of clicks... imperiling social morals and seriously harming minors' physical and mental health," Xinhua quoted the statement as saying.

It said the state broadcasting authority had therefore decided to revoke Sina's licenses on Internet publishing and online audiovisual broadcasting and impose "a large number of fines." Calls to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television rang unanswered Thursday evening.

China's Communist authorities heavily police the Internet for content deemed obscene or politically subversive. Twitter, Facebook, and other Western social media sites are blocked.

In the government's latest campaign against online pornography, the State Internet Information Office had shut down 110 websites and some 3,300 accounts on China-based social networking sites as of the past weekend, according to Xinhua.

Sina Corp. offers entertainment, games and other content on the Internet and mobile platforms and operates Sina Weibo, the country's most popular microblog service. Its U.S.-listed shares fell $1.63, or 3 percent, to close at $51.64 on the Nasdaq Stock Market Thursday.

Mark Natkin, managing director of Marbridge Consulting, a Beijing-based internet and mobile research company, said he didn't think the revoking of Sina's licenses would be permanent.

"Very frequently things of this nature are very campaign-based and as such temporary," he said. "There's some window given to the company to clean up."

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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