China takes popular news app Toutiao offline for 24 hours over pornographic content

Platform accused of misguiding online public opinion

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 December, 2017, 8:42pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 December, 2017, 11:17pm

Cyberoverseers in Beijing have shut down China’s most popular news app, Jinri Toutiao, for 24 hours, over alleged breaches of regulations and for spreading “pornographic and vulgar content”.

In a brief statement on Friday, the Beijing Internet Information Office said Toutiao and the mobile app linked to Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television had “exerted a bad influence on online opinion”.

Toutiao is the country’s biggest online news aggregator with 120 million daily active users.

It is not a licensed online publisher, and has a reputation for using sensational headlines to generate clicks.

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As a result, the app’s six key channels, including its most-read one, were told to suspend publishing for 24 hours, the regulator said in the statement.

There was no content on the app on Friday night except for a notice saying it was down for “an upgrade and maintenance” from 6pm on Friday to 6pm on Saturday.

China has shut down more than 13,000 websites in the last three years as Beijing has tightened its grip on the internet and sought to “clean up cyberspace”.

The Cyberspace Administration of China summoned more than 2,200 website operators for talks, and closed nearly 10 million user accounts over breaches of regulations, state-run Xinhua reported on Sunday.

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The internet watchdog has targeted all kinds of platforms, from websites, mobile apps, online forums and blogs, to microblogs, social networks, instant messaging services and live broadcasts, according to the report.

Critics say the moves restrict freedom of speech and are aimed at stopping criticism of the Communist Party. But the authorities maintain they are merely clamping down on pornography and violent content online.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are also banned in China.