China investigates Internet giants for illegal online content

People read on smart phone in subway train. In China the

China is investigating its top social media sites, including WeChat and Weibo, for failing to comply with cyber laws, the latest step in the country's push to secure the internet and maintain strict Communist Party control over content.

The online regulator said that illegal content found on all three sites, including violence and terror, false information and obscenity, poses a threat to national security, public safety and social order.

Cyber surveillance is being tightened further ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China expected to be held later this year, when global attention will be on news coming from the world's second-biggest economy.

Baidu said it had deep regret over content that fell into those categories and would cooperate actively with the departments of the government to fix the issues as well as increase its auditing.

The watchdog did not specify what actions may be taken, and Tencent and Weibo had no immediate comment on the notice. While Weibo and Baidu are based in Beijing, Tencent is based in Shenzhen.

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Shares of Hong Kong-listed Tencent, in which Napers owns 33%, fell nearly 5%. Baidu and Weibo are listed in the U.S.

Prior to the meeting, Weibo was ordered to partially close its video site over violations, wiping out a combined US$1.3 billion (S$1.8 billion) worth of stock between Weibo and parent company Sina Corp. Then, in the same month, Tieba forum - home to millions of discussions on a range of topics - asked its users to register with real names, citing the same law.

In recent months, regulators have taken severe and unprecedented moves to shutter content and media across a variety of platforms.

In May, new regulations were released for online sites that have news that expanded the curbs on content, while requiring services to be overseen by an editorial staff that was party sanctioned.

WeChat and Weibo are China's most popular social media platforms, and have thrived due to the absence of Western competitors like Facebook and Twitter, which are banned by the country's censors.

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