Censorship in China

Weibo, Tencent volunteer to clean up content as China intensifies crackdown 

Chinese social media platform operators Weibo and Tencent have voluntarily embarked on clean-up campaigns to sanitise content despite not being singled out by regulators 

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 April, 2018, 11:18am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 April, 2018, 2:11am

China’s social media platform operators are now volunteering to sanitise their content before the country’s regulator turns its gaze onto them.

In a sign that China’s crackdown on online content is having a chilling effect, two major operators of social media are removing questionable videos and posts and disallowing sharing on their platforms so as not to fall afoul of government censors, which have punished the country’s biggest news aggregator and other video-sharing sites for hosting vulgar content that “disrupted socialist values”.

Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, will clean up lowbrow content on its live-streaming platforms to “ensure they do not disrupt China’s socialist core values” in a campaign that will last three months, the company said in a statement on its official account. 

Tencent, the biggest internet company in Asia, has blocked videos from Weishi, Kuaishou, Douyin and Xigua – platforms singled out by regulators for distributing inappropriate content – from playing on its own WeChat and QQ platforms, according to a spokesperson.

This was what happened when China's biggest news aggregator tried to kill lowbrow content

Weibo, WeChat and QQ collectively reach more than 2 billion monthly active users, with many consumers logging on to more than one platform.

Chinese social media are reacting to tightened controls by the Chinese media regulator on online content. On Tuesday, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) demanded Toutiao, China’s most widely used news site with than 120 million daily active users, to permanently shut down one of its most popular accounts Neihan Duanzi. 

The account, with more than 4.1 million followers on Toutiao, regularly posted stories, photos and short videos deemed “vulgar” by the media regulator. An example of a video, re-posted on YouTube, showed someone pinching a fly off a table and dropping it into another person’s bowl of noodles. 

The day before, four of China’s popular news apps, including Toutiao, were removed from a number of Chinese smartphone app stores.

SAPPRFT last week also singled out Toutiao and short video app Kuaishou for disregarding regulations and “disrupting order” in the online media and entertainment industry. State media earlier named-and-shamed Toutiao for publishing misleading and harmful online medical advertisements on its site. 

Breaking down China's most popular news app, Toutiao

Toutiao and Kuaishou were ordered to remove content that was “vulgar, violent, gory, pornographic and harmful” from its sites, and they are banned from letting new users register while the platforms conduct checks on existing users.

Kuaishou, one of China’s most popular live-streaming apps, was called out by state media in early April for hosting videos that feature teenage mothers, claiming to be aged 13 or 14, holding newborns in their arms or appearing on video looking pregnant. As the minimum legal age in China for marriage is 22 for men and 20 for women, such videos were seen to be promoting “wrong” life values.

Alibaba, the parent company of South China Morning Post, competes with Tencent in areas including mobile payments and video-streaming.