The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s top cybersecurity authority, has sent a team to social media company Douban’s office in Beijing to supervise the “rectification” of “severe online chaos” on its platform, the regulator said in a single-sentence statement on Tuesday.
The regulator did not elaborate on the specific matters that it would oversee, or how long the team would be stationed on Douban’s premises.
This renewed scrutiny comes after a series of penalties and fines were imposed on Douban last year for violations such as failing to censor “harmful” and “unhealthy” content, promoting “chaotic fan culture,” and collecting excessive user data.
In 2016, the CAC kicked off the “Qinglang Operation,” a series of campaigns to quash what it has described as “online chaos,” referring to misinformation and calls for cyberbullying.
Douban blends the functionality of Reddit, IMDB, and other platforms. It hosts groups that have shaped Chinese internet culture over the past few years. The company was penalized 20 times in 2021, with fines totaling RMB 10.5 million (USD 1.65 million).
Douban has also followed orders from the government to remove information that the state deems harmful or inappropriate. In December 2021, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) ordered the platform to be removed from app stores because of user data violations. So far, its app has not been reinstated.
In recent years, Douban has been frequently targeted by the government and some of its functions, like the reply button, were temporarily disabled. The CAC often directs Chinese internet platforms to “rectify” their businesses and evaluates their efforts to do so. However, it is uncommon for regulators to send teams to remain on site and supervise these actions.
Douban is a popular online community that hosts content related to celebrities, pop culture, and entertainment in China. The platform began as a forum where users discussed books, music, and films. The site has earned a reputation for being a relatively liberal forum for users who are typically well-educated and supportive of progressive values such as women’s rights. By the end of 2020, the site had over 10 million active users.