Tencent’s WeChat, Baidu and Weibo were all fined the maximum penalties by China’s cyber regulators for allowing content that was banned by the government.
According to a Reuters news report, the move on the part of China’s cyber watchdog comes as the country is cracking down on content that is not allowed to be shared online. It also comes ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party, which is a big conference held every five years.
Reuters reported that according to notices posted by the Cyberspace Administration of China, all three companies will receive the “maximum penalty” for not removing content that the government deemed to be fake news, pornography or content that incites ethnic tensions and “threatens social order.” This is the first time the government agency has placed the maximum fine on Chinese technology companies under the law, which went into effect in June.
“The internet does not operate outside of the law … the CAC will seriously implement the new cybersecurity law and other regulations to increase territorial supervision and enforcement efforts regarding the internet,” said the CAC, according to Reuters.
The notices did not detail how much the online censorship penalties will cost the internet companies, but the rules dictate that individuals who run the platforms and others directly involved could be liable for penalties as high as $15,110 each. They can also lose their licenses and have their services suspended if they don’t comply.
According to the report, the CAC launched an inquiry in August aimed at the leading social media services in the country. Earlier in September, the government agency also issued new regulations that say messaging apps must apply credit scores to customers, which can then be reduced as punishment for content that is deemed offensive. That rule goes into effect on Oct. 8, making users legally liable for any illegal content posted.