China investigates Internet giants for illegal online content

Tencent WeChat Sina Weibo and Baidu Tieba are three of the most popular websites in China

Tencent WeChat Sina Weibo and Baidu Tieba are three of the most popular websites in China

Naspers, a 1.2 trillion rand ($88.95 billion) multinational with private equity-style investments, owes much of its valuation to the $33 million investment it made in 2001 to take a stake in Tencent, which is now China's biggest internet company with a $334 billion market capitalization.

China's cyber regulator on Friday said it was investigating the country's top social media sites over failing to comply with strict laws that ban content which is violent, obscene or deemed offensive to the Communist Party.

Tencent Holdings shares were marked 3.55% in Hong Kong Friday and changing hands at a one-week low of HK$315 each by the close of trading.

"Users are spreading violence, terror, false rumours, pornography and other hazards to national security, public safety, social order", the Administration said on its website in what is widely perceived as a shot across the bow of WeChat, China's most-popular messaging app, and its 940 million monthly active users. Investors will now wait to see how shares of the firms listed in the US will react. "They did not fulfill duties to manage illegal information uploaded by their users", the statement said.

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are not accessible in China, which has recently also banned the image of Winnie the Pooh - reportedly because the bear was being compared to President Xi Jinping.

The probe is the latest in a series of recent moves by Beijing to tighten its control of online information.

A national network-security construct called the Golden Shield Project has developed a censorship and surveillance tool known as the Great Firewall of China, which has been in operation since 2003. This year, it has cracked down on tools that enable users to skirt the defenses. People who cross the line can face suspension of their accounts or even arrest.

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