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Censorship in China

China removes four news apps from smartphone stores to tighten control

China has shut down more than 13,000 websites in the last three years as Beijing sought to tighten its grip on the internet.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 April, 2018, 6:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 April, 2018, 11:45am

The mobile apps for four popular news apps in China, including the most popular aggregator, Jinri Toutiao, were removed from a number of Chinese smartphone app stores following reports of a crackdown by the country’s media watchdog. 

Toutiao, with about 120 million daily active users, was not available on the app stores of smartphone manufacturers Xiaomi and Meizu on Monday afternoon. The apps for Tiantian Kuaibao, Netease News and Ifeng News were also not found on Xiaomi. 

China’s authorities have asked several of the country’s smartphone app stores to remove the four apps by 3pm on Monday as part of efforts to “regulate order in the broadcasting environment”, according to Chinese news portal Sohu.com. The apps will be removed for between three days to three weeks, with Toutiao being offline for the longest period, according to the Sohu report. 

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China has been tightening its control of the internet, clamping down on content deemed inappropriate. China’s top media watchdog, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television, last week singled out Jinri Toutiao and short video app Kuaishou for disregarding regulations and “disrupting order” in the online media and entertainment industry last week. Kuaishou has since said it will add another 3,000 employees to police content. 

The removal from popular app stores would hurt Toutiao’s ability to attract new Android users. The app could still be found on Apple’s China app store as of the time of publication.

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China has shut down more than 13,000 websites in the last three years as Beijing sought to tighten its grip on the internet. 

Representatives for Toutiao, Meizu and Kuaibao’s developer Tencent, did not immediately respond to attempts to contact them for comment. Xiaomi declined to comment, while a Netease representative said the company was unlikely to comment. 

Phoenix New Media has received notice that its ifeng News app will be removed from certain app stores for a two-week period, according to an emailed statement from the company’s investor relations spokesperson.

The spokesperson also said that the Phoenix New Media will “follow the instructions of authorities and monitor our content more carefully, contributing to the healthy internet ecosystem”.