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China launches crackdown on mobile web browser 'chaos'

China's top cyber authority said on Monday it would carry out a "rectification" of Chinese mobile internet browsers to address what it called social concerns over the "chaos" of information being published online.

China has tightened already strict internet censorship rules in recent years. In the latest crackdown, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) gave browsers two weeks to conduct a self-examination focusing on problems including the spreading of rumours, use of sensationalist headlines and publishing of content that violates the core values of socialism. 

The campaign will initially focus on eight of the most influential mobile browsers in China such as ones operated by Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, Alibaba Group Holding and Xiaomi Corp, the CAC said in a statement. 

Others include the QQ platform owned by Tencent, Qihoo-owned 360, Oppo and Sogou.

"For some time, mobile browsers have grown in an uncivilised way ... and have become a gathering place and amplifier for dissemination of chaos by 'self-media'," the CAC said, echoing words it had used in a 2018 crackdown on social media accounts of independent news providers.

Browsers should conduct a self-examination and rectification from Oct. 27 to Nov. 9, it said. 

"After the rectification, mobile browsers that still have outstanding problems will be dealt with strictly according to laws and regulations until related businesses are banned," the CAC warned.

In recent years China has introduced legislation to restrict media outlets, surveillance measures for media sites and rolling campaigns to remove content deemed unacceptable. 

Xiaomi declined to comment on the rectification campaign, while Huawei, Alibaba, Tencent, Oppo, Sogou and 360 did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh and Josh Horwitz; Additional reporting by Pei Li in Hong Kong; Writing by Tom Daly; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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