News apps targeted by Chinese government in internet crackdown

Programmes accused of harming youth and told to 'rectify' their ways or be banned

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 9:33am

The mainland's central government yesterday launched a crackdown on several mobile applications that provide news information services without approval from official regulators, threatening to shut down those who refuse to "rectify".

The ruling follows a government campaign to curb "online rumours", as the government tries to rein in social media.

The State Internet Information Office said some of the news applications carried "pornography and obscene information and harmed the physical and mental health of youngsters". Others published false information, it said.

Some mobile news applications also provide a channel for mainland subscribers to read articles published by foreign media outlets whose articles have been blocked.

The mobile news applications that were identified include Zaker, which said it had more than 17.5 million users at the end of April, and Chouti, whose slogan is: "Publish all that should not be published."

The state regulator has told authorities to further crack down on illegal mobile news applications, by requiring them to "rectify" according to the laws.

The government will close down and ban those that refuse "to maintain order of news dissemination on the mobile internet".

The mainland's top court and prosecutor issued a regulation last month specifying that people would be charged with defamation if online rumours they create were visited by 5,000 internet users or reposted more than 500 times. Those responsible can be sentenced to up to three years in jail.

Lawyers and activists called the latest crackdown a significant expansion of powers to police the internet and a blow to those who rely on microblogs to disseminate information that is often not monitored as strictly as traditional media.

Police last week released a teenager who had been detained after he questioned on his microblog the handling by authorities of a man's death. State media said the junior high school pupil was the first person detained under the new rules.