China’s internet watchdog clamps down on ‘disrespectful’ advertising

Short video app Douyin, popular news app creator Beijing ByteDance Technology, and search engine operator Sogou among those to have fallen foul of country’s Heroes and Martyrs Protection Law

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 10:41pm

China’s internet watchdog has officially criticised Douyin, the widely used Chinese short video app, for failing to censor its marketing content well enough, after one of its own adverts was found to be considered disrespectful to one of the country’s most-respected wartime martyrs.

The Beijing office of the Cyberspace Administration of China has now called on Douyin – which is run by Beijing ByteDance Technology – via a statement on its official WeChat account to immediately take greater care scrutinising all adverts for offensive content.

ByteDance issued a public apology on Wednesday, saying it will “deeply reflect on the adverse social impact” caused by its search engine advertising.

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It blamed its marketing department for mishandling of the advert in question and said its advertising placement team has been suspended as a result.

[ByteDance] ‘will deeply reflect on the adverse social impact’ caused by its search engine advertising
Beijing ByteDance Technology statement

One recent online advert for the short video app to crop up on leading Beijing-based search engine operator Sogou also drew wide social media attention for being deemed disrespectful to Qiu Shaoyun, a soldier highly celebrated in Chinese textbooks for choosing to burn to death during the Korean war, rather than reveal the positions of his comrades.

Sogou has been previously criticised by the internet watchdog for failing in its duty to censor adverts that appear on search results.

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ByteDance has become a major influence in China’s social media with hundreds of millions of users and has also found itself under growing pressure from the authorities for not doing enough to police vulgar content either.

It’s not the first time ByteDance – which also runs China’s popular news aggregator Jinri Toutiao – has fallen foul of China’s Heroes and Martyrs Protection Law.

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The company was recently criticised by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism as its Jinri Toutiao app carried a satirical comic strip poking fun at Dong Cunrui, another revered communist soldier, who blew himself up to destroy a nationalist Kuomintang bunker, being used to guard the approach to an important bridge in 1948.