China’s internet regulator said it had deployed a special task force to the offices of popular social media platform Douban to rectify “serious online chaos”, in an escalation of Beijing’s ongoing drive to control internet content. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a brief statement on Tuesday that its Beijing bureau dispatched a supervision team to station at Douban. The agency did not elaborate on what issues it was trying to resolve, or how long the team would stay. Douban, which currently has around 200 million registered users, is known as a haven for relatively liberal online discussions, in a country where unconventional views are usually heavily censored. For years, people have flocked to the site to leave comments and ratings for films, books and pop culture content. How Douban went from China’s IMDB to its ‘spiritual corner’ It is rare for China’s internet police to send on-site teams to companies. In a move last July that underscored increased regulatory pressure on the country’s internet sector, the CAC led a consortium of officials from seven ministries to enter the offices of ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing to conduct a cybersecurity review. The regulators have yet to publish the result of its investigation. The renewed government scrutiny on Douban marks an escalation from a 1.5 million yuan (US$235,000) fine imposed on the Beijing-based company last December for “unlawful release of information”. In the same month, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology ordered Douban to be removed from app stores because of data violations. The intensifying clampdown on Douban, created in 2005 by University of California San Diego alumus Yang Bo, is a sign of tightened censorship in China, where authorities have become increasingly intolerant of online discussions, even those about subjects unrelated to politics. Official topics on Douban generally steer away from political or social issues – such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – preferring instead to focus on lighthearted themes, including poetry, sports and personal relationships. However, group discussions and user-generated content sometimes contain subtle political dissent. How an obscure government office has struck fear into China’s Big Tech Last year, the website closed some popular channels to comply with regulations. Still, it was punished several times, resulting in an accumulated fine of 9 million yuan. Douban, a private company, did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. The CAC’s visit to Douban is part of a broader campaign by Beijing to ensure that China’s 1 billion web users can only access content deemed appropriate. With foreign sites such as Google, Twitter and Facebook being blocked by the Great Firewall, public opinion on China’s internet increasingly conforms to the state’s narrative. Last week, CAC deputy head Sheng Ronghua led an official visit to the offices of Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging platform. At a symposium attended by representatives from major Chinese social media companies, he urged businesses to keep working towards a “clean” cyberspace, “elevate their political standing”, bear in mind the state’s priorities, and treat their efforts as “a tough battle, a long-lasting battle, and a total battle”. Attendees at the symposium included Tencent Holdings, Baidu, Kuaishou Technology, Zhihu and Alibaba Group Holding, owner of the South China Morning Post .