China's Internet Cleanup: Beijing Cracks Down on QQ, Taobao and Xiaohongshu Over 'Child Sex' Content

In a move to promote healthy online environment, China's Internet regulator announced on July 21 that it has censured and fined several platforms that negatively affect the country's youth.

Beijing says it wants to protect the country's children and hence it is imposing fines on social media giant QQ, e-commerce site Taobao and social media app Xiaohongshu for spreading sexually suggestive content involving children.

What is China's Operation Fresh Summer Holidays Internet Cleanup?

According to The Straits Times, this move is dubbed as "Operation Fresh Summer Holidays Internet Cleanup" and is introduced by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC).

The CAC said in a statement that the move was aimed at resolving seven "prominent online problems" that were affecting the country's youth.

Among the problems listed were: minors appearing on live streams to promote extravagance; pornographic and violent content; cartoons or animation that promote bad behavior; forums that encourage toxic behavior like attacking others and suicide; and the promotion of fan culture.

Representational photo Pixabay

Cyberspace Administration of China Orders Technology Firms to Pay Fines

Kuaishou Technology, Tencent's QQ, Alibaba's Taobao, Weibo Corp and Little Red Book were ordered to remove the offending accounts and pay an unspecified amount in fines, the Cyberspace Administration of China said in a statement.

The penalties were issued as part of a campaign to tackle online content deemed "harmful to the physical and mental well-being of minors", reported Bloomberg.

The quantum of the fines was not stated and it is unclear how long the platforms have to remove the content. The agency will "step up the enforcement of laws and regulations, and punish those who violate the rules", CAC said in the statement. It also revealed that there will be a 'zero tolerance' approach toward issues that hurt minors.

China Crackdown on its Tech Companies

In the past few months, China has been targeting its homegrown tech giants like Didi, Boss ZhiPin, Yunmanman and Huochebang. The CAC is ramping up a crackdown on the mainland's tech companies amid tightened regulations on data security. Chinese regulators have also recently tightened scrutiny of Internet platform companies, including Alibaba Group and Meituan, for anti-competitive practices.

The CAC's announcement has come days after Kuaishou sank as much as 3.2% following the CAC's statement. Tencent shares were nearly 2% lower while Alibaba slid 0.6% in afternoon trading, reported Bloomberg.

China's Censorship on Online Platforms

China has been strictly monitoring the online content ranging from video games to movies to music. Beijing believes that it should control information and actions that induce minors to carry out behavior that has value-oriented problems such as the chasing of entertainment stars with no limits in mind or worshipping money.

Last year, guidelines were issued on what can be promoted via live streaming, banning the sales of counterfeit products. Restrictions were also imposed on online play time for young users.

Xi Jinping
Wikimedia Commons

The Cyberspace Administration of China had ordered the people in charge of the Xueersi Online School app, a unit of TAL Education Group, to clean up the app's content after finding issues with its videos and articles. The internet watchdog summoned representatives from online school Xueersi over "lowbrow videos" and "encouraging romance at an early age", reported the South China Morning Post.

Are the Global Technology Companies Taking Steps to Tackle Child Exploitation?

Facebook joined Google, Microsoft and 15 other tech companies to announce the formation of Project Protect to combat child sexual abuse on its platforms. The social media giant had earlier stated that it is intensifying efforts to crack down on child abuse content on its platform, as it has tightened norms, improved detection capabilities, and updated tools to prevent sharing of content that victimizes children.