China on Monday launched a crackdown on several mobile news applications that provide news information services without approval from government regulators, threatening to shut down those who refuse to “rectify”.
The ruling follows a government campaign to curb “online rumors”, as the government tries to rein in social media.
The State Internet Information Office said that some of the news applications carried “pornography and obscene information and harm the physical and mental health of youngsters”, and others published false information.
Some mobile news applications also provide a channel for subscribers in China to read articles published by foreign media outlets whose articles have been blocked in China, such as the New York Times.
Mobile news applications identified include Zaker, which said it had more than 17.5 million users at the end of April, and Chouti whose slogan is: “Publish all that should not be published.”
The state regulator has told authorities to further crack down on illegal mobile news applications, by requiring them to “rectify” according to the laws.
The government will close down and ban those who refuse to rectify “to maintain order of news dissemination on the mobile internet”.
China’s top court and prosecutor issued a regulation in September specifying that people will be charged with defamation if online rumors they create were visited by 5,000 internet users or reposted more than 500 times. Those responsible can be sentenced to three years in jail.
Lawyers and activists called the latest crackdown a significant, if crude, expansion of powers to police the Internet and a blow to those who rely on microblogs to disseminate information that is often not monitored as strictly as traditional media.
(Reporting by Li Hui and Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Robert Birsel)