BEIJING, April 24 -- China's Internet giant Sina.com will be stripped of its online publication license, a penalty that might partially ban its operations, after articles and videos on the site fell prey to the country's high-profile anti-porn movement.
According to a statement released on Thursday by the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications, 20 articles and four videos posted on Sina.com were confirmed to have contained lewd and pornographic content following "a huge amount" of public tip-offs.
As of result, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television decided to revoke the company's two crucial licenses on Internet publication and audio and video dissemination and impose "a large number of fines."
People suspected of criminal offenses in the case have been transferred to police organs for further investigation, the statement said.
An official with the office surnamed Zhou told Xinhua that it's still not certain when the punishment will be implemented or how much the fine will be as there should be time for the company to appeal against the decision if it wishes.
While the website, including its book and video sections where the questionable contents were found, is still accessible as of press time, Zhou revealed that some of the website's operations might be disabled if the punishment takes effect.
"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.
Meanwhile, the website was also found to have violated other government rules in its online video services, it said, without elaborating.
Last year, Sina.com received administrative punishments twice for spreading online publications with banned contents, and its latest offense seems to have pushed authorities over the edge, with the statement describing the website as "having not learned a lesson at all and turning a cold shoulder on social responsibility."
"[The website] overstepped the red line of law... and it must be punished in accordance with laws and regulations," it said.
"As a major web portal, Sina.com has a huge number of young users. It should have shouldered its responsibility in protecting minors. However, the website ignored the bottom line of the law,... leading to serious harm and resulting in an offense of a grave nature," the office added.
Earlier this month, a statement from Sina on its Weibo account said its reading section was offline as the company was checking "works containing inappropriate content," but apparently its clean-up efforts were not successful.
Sina Weibo, the enormously popular Twitter-like social network site under Sina Corp, debuted on the Nasdaq exchange last Thursday, with its stock price surging by 19.06 percent from the subscription price of 17 U.S. dollars. On Wednesday of this week, it closed at 21.4 U.S. dollars.
"Regardless of its scale and influence, a website should still give protection of minors top priority," the statement said, urging Sina to learn lessons, apologize to the public, correct mistakes and guarantee that such wrongdoing won't happen again.
In response to the office, Sina posted a circular later on Thursday "offering the most sincere apology to all netizens and the public."
The company admitted that the website was indeed slack in supervising its content, and it felt "regretful and guilty" for not fulfilling its social responsibility.
In the document, the company vowed to "obey the punishment without passing the buck."
Meanwhile, the office warned other Internet service providers against similar errors, telling them to set up a comprehensive online info management system and check themselves for banned content.
Earlier this week, the country's "Cleaning the Web 2014" campaign saw 110 websites shut down and some 3,300 accounts on China-based social networking services as well as online forums deleted.
The office vowed to maintain a persistent crackdown on online pornography and hand down whatever punishments violators deserve, whether it be fines, license removals or pursuit of criminal liabilities.