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Sina Weibo, one of China"s most popular social media, has been ordered by Beijing"s internet watchdog to suspend its "hot" rankings for failing to stop the spread of illegal content.
The Beijing office of the Cyberspace Administration of China issued the weeklong ban on Saturday after accusing the technology company of promoting improper materials uploaded by users, including pornography and ethnic discrimination.
The website, which last year had more than 360 million monthly active users, was told to suspend several lists including its "hottest topics".
Many netizens use such rankings every day to keep track of what is trending. Yet the potential exposure has led some companies and celebrity users to pay agencies to artificially drive up the popularity of their posts.
The authority said the company has been ordered to conduct a self-inspection and make improvements based on the findings.
Sina Weibo violated the laws and regulations governing cyberspace, spreading illegal information and negatively affecting the online environment, the watchdog said in a statement.
On Saturday, the company responded by saying it was shutting down its lists for "most searched hashtags" and "hottest topics", a question-and-answer service as well as a section that focuses on celebrity relationships until 9 pm on Feb 3.
The company said it had fully accepted the authority"s criticism, and would make serious efforts to learn from the lesson and reinforce its management to become more responsible.
In addition, on Sunday it released a list of topics that will be banned from its "hot" lists for at least three months, which includes the name of Shanghai movie actor Wei Qianxiang.
"The discussions with Sina Weibo (executives) was based on a regulation released by the Cyberspace Administration of China two years ago," said Zhu Wei, deputy director of the China University of Political Science and Law"s Communication Law Center.
"Some of the content on its "hot" lists is vulgar and harmful to users, particularly children," he said. "Companies should better shoulder their social responsibilities rather than simply chase money."
However, Zhu said holding talks with the company is only a temporary solution, while the key is building a long-term mechanism to improve cyberspace by law. "I believe the mechanism will appear soon," he added.
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