|Sina faces punishment over porn: report
China plans to restrict Internet giant Sina's right to publish after finding pornographic content on the portal, a report said Friday, in Beijing's latest move to tighten control of the web.
Sina published 24 "pornographic and obscene'' e-books, videos and audio programs, said the government body that tackles pornography and illegal publications in a report on its website.
"Sina neglected basic legal standards... (and) openly spread obscene and pornographic information,'' the report cited an unnamed official as saying. "The damage was severe and the (offence) was vile.''
The Beijing Times on Friday cited an unnamed investigator on the case as saying that the pornographic e-books were mostly novels by third-party authors and that Sina regularly promoted such works in pop-up windows.
Some of the material published was viewed millions of times, the report on the government website said.
Authorities plan to revoke two of Sina's licenses that will effectively bar it from publishing online books, video and audio content, as well as charging it a "hefty'' fine, it said, without specifying an amount.
Police are now investigating employees from the portal who are suspected of crimes related to pornography, the report said.
Sina has issued an apology on its website.
"Sina indeed didn't keep a tight enough control and monitoring over some contents,'' the firm said in an online statement.
"We regret and are deeply ashamed of that,'' it added, without mentioning if the company planned to appeal against the punishment.
The government body used Sina as an example of the consequences of publishing pornographic material online.
"Internet information providers must let Sina be a warning, pay close attention to online content management and set up and improve your website information security management mechanism,'' the report quoted the official as saying.
China has repeatedly vowed to clamp down on online content that it calls ''harmful'' to minors.
The government announced this month a nationwide anti-pornography campaign aimed at "cleaning up the Internet'' that would run from April to November, earlier state media reports said.
But critics say such efforts have been used to muzzle politically sensitive discussion on the Internet, whose fast-growing user base in China has reached 618 million.
Growing use of privately owned social-networking sites has given rise to free-wheeling reporting, providing an alternative to domestic news outlets which are strictly censored.
Last August police detained Chinese-American billionaire blogger Charles Xue, who had attracted 12 million followers with his reform-minded posts, for suspected involvement in prostitution amid a crackdown on "online rumours''.
Xue was released on bail last week pending trial.
Sina is the parent company of Weibo, one of China's most popular microblogging services, which was listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange last week. --AFP