February 3, 2015 / 3:19 AM / 3 years ago

China blasts NetEase for spreading porn in latest push to cleanse cyberspace

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's Internet regulator has accused NetEase Inc, a U.S.-listed Chinese web portal, of spreading rumors and pornography, in the authorities' latest move to "clean up" the country's online space.

The accusation follows fines imposed by China's Ministry of Culture in December on 11 Internet companies, including Tencent Holdings Ltd and Baidu Inc, for spreading pornography and content depicting violence.

China launched an anti-pornography campaign in April as part of a wider effort to sanitize the Internet. The drive coincided with curbs on freedom of expression online, which have intensified since President Xi Jinping assumed office early in 2013. Xi also chairs the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs, whose stated goal is to make China a cyber power.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), in a statement posted on its website late on Monday, said NetEase should improve internal management, or face punishment including the halting of its online news service.

"Some websites take a lax attitude towards content, publishing for the sake of profit," CAC said in the statement.

NetEase could not be immediately reached for comment.

In August, Chinese authorities warned Baidu to clean up its content after pornographic files were found on its online storage service.

In May, Sina was fined 5.1 million yuan by Beijing authorities for allowing "unhealthy and indecent content" on its online reading channel and on its main website.

Reporting by Engen Tham; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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