Weibo, two other websites asked to shut down video and audio program services

China’s TV and film watchdog has told three web portals to close video and audio programs that are in violation of state rules.

The three web portals, Sina Weibo, a twitter-like microblogging platform, news portal and video site Acfun, have provided audio-visual program services without gaining appropriate certificates, and carry political material that breaks state rules and social commentary which incites negative opinion, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said in a statement released on its website on Thursday.

"The administration has ordered authorities in charge to take effective measures to shut down the websites' audio-visual program services and make a thorough rectification, so as to create a cleaner cyberspace," read the statement.

According to a guideline on Internet Video and Audio Program Service released on the website of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, Internet video and audio program services include the production, live streaming and reposting of a video and audio program concerning topics such as significant political issues, entertainment, military, technology, education and so on.

The guideline took into effect in January 2008, and had stricter restrictions on providers of Internet video and audio programs than previous regulations.

A total of 588 companies have gained the certificates to provide Internet audio and visual program services by the end of 2016, most of which got the certificates before 2008, according to a report by the Paper.

Under the guideline, a private company like Sina Weibo has to buy another company which has already gained the certificate in order to be entitled to provide audio and video programs, according to the report.

The statement didn’t give further details about when these programs should be taken down and whether the move was permanent.

Weibo has about 340 million monthly active users, and in February, it surpassed Twitter in market capitalization, at a valuation of $11.3bn.

ACFUN, nicknamed "A station," was a major provider of cartoons and anime, and one of China's first video sites to feature "bullet screen" function where real-time comments from viewers appear on the screen.

Sina Weibo said late Thursday that it will enhance the management of multimedia content and further regulate other services. Users without the gaining administration's license on audio-visual program services are not allowed to upload audio-visual programs, while “non-program” video and audio contents will not be affected by the clampdown.

The sudden halt on video and audio programs on these web portals comes as China is stepping up efforts to clean the Internet environment and regulate online content. Earlier this month, more than 60 social media accounts, including some popular gossip accounts on Weibo and social media accounts on WeChat, were shut down for “vulgar” contents that have negative social influences.

It also came after China’s first Cyber Security Law came into effect this month, which stipulates that any individual and organization shall not create or disseminate false information to disrupt economic or social order, and the reputation, privacy, intellectual property or other lawful rights and interests of others.

China has repeatedly asked websites to gain correct certificates before providing audio-visual programs. It is reported that Chinese tech giant Tencent was punished in May for spreading self-made political and live news programs and broadcasting vulgar shows on mobile apps including WeChat.

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