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Web giant Sina caught in China's 'lewd and pornographic' crackdown

BEIJING — A Chinese government crackdown on “lewd and pornographic” content has ensnared Internet giant Sina.com, with authorities saying Thursday that inappropriate articles and videos were found on the portal and that the company would be stripped of its online publication and video licenses.

The National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications said tips from the public led to the discovery of 20 articles and four videos on the site that violated regulations. "Some of these articles were as long as 500-plus chapters and clocked millions of clicks ... imperiling social morals and seriously harming minors' physical and mental health," the statement said.

In a letter posted online, Sina said it was “deeply saddened” by the developments and offered “sincere apologies.” “We are sorry and ashamed,” the note continued, adding that the company had established a rectification team to deal with the situation and invited users to continue to “monitor and criticize us.”

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China began a crackdown on influential bloggers and commentators last year, and in recent weeks has gone after what it calls online rumor mongers and “fake news.” This month, authorities kicked off a “Cleaning the Web 2014” campaign, with the national anti-porn office saying it would do thorough checks of search engines, websites, Internet TV services, set-top boxes and even USB drives.

According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the campaign has resulted in the shutdown of some 110 websites and the deletion of about 3,300 accounts on China-based social networking services and online forums.

Exactly when the penalties against Sina would take effect was unclear; video and other content was still available on the site late Thursday night. Sina says the majority of its revenue comes from advertising and mobile services and it was not immediately clear what the business impact would be.

Sina Corp. stock is traded in the U.S. and the company’s microblogging service, Weibo, separately went public in the United States this month.

According to Xinhua, among the offending content found on Sina was an online novel entitled “A village woman’s dream lover: high quality village doctor” and a video called “bikini beauty show.” The anti-porn office said offensive content had been found on Sina last year and the latest discoveries indicated that Sina had "not learned a lesson at all” and had turned “a cold shoulder on social responsibility."

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