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Beijing Probes Web Giants for ‘Illegal’ Content

The Chinese government has said it has begun an investigation into illegal content on some of the country’s biggest online platforms, as its clampdown on internet freedom continues.

Web giants Tencent, Baidu and Weibo are under scrutiny for potentially carrying user-generated content (UGC) which apparently broke strict rules over what netizens can say online.

Posts via channels such as Tencent’s messaging app WeChat, Baidu’s Tieba forum and Weibo’s eponymous microblogging platform may have contained “violence, porn, rumors” which could spark social disorder, according to Bloomberg.

There’s no clarity yet on what investigators might do or what punishments the internet giants could face, although the crackdown is most likely linked to the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.

The twice-a-decade event is a key moment in which it’s expected this year that the senior leadership of the party will change significantly.

There’s always a widespread security clampdown, both on and offline, ahead of events such as these, with the party ever-paranoid that an unexpected event could undermine its grip on power.

President and general secretary of the Communist Part of China, Xi Jinping, has been particularly ruthless in his demands for more control over what people can say and access online inside the Great Firewall.

Last month, Apple removed around 60 VPN apps from its China App Store in line with government orders, sparking widespread criticism of an approach which could leave businesses and individuals with limited options if they want to access the free internet from inside the country.

The UN has written to Tim Cook requesting more information on its decision-making process, asking whether it used its considerable weight to make the case for the protection of human rights in China, or merely acquiesced with the localized law.

The move follows a Cybersecurity Law passed last year which will greatly restrict what data multi-nationals located there can transmit outside of China. In fact, Apple is said to be planning the construction of its first datacenter in the country to ease compliance efforts.

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