Four of the most popular Chinese news applications have been suspended. The regulators’ major drive for this was that the news apps were distributing ‘fake’ and ‘vulgar’ content to their users.
In line with China’s constant efforts for content regulation, the country’s government has strengthened the Great Chinese Firewall by blocking the news apps Ifeng News, Jinri Toutiao, NetEase News, as well as Tiantian Kuaibao. These applications had a total of 424 million active users.
Sina News reports that the takedown took place on Monday at 3pm, when the relevant regulators suspended the downloading of the four news applications on Android stores.
Jinri Toutiao had the most users, amounting to a total of 263 million regular visitors. The app will be unavailable for download for the duration of three weeks. NetEase News had 60 million frequenters and will not be downloadable for one week. Meanwhile, Ifeng News, who had a total of 56 million users at the point of removal, will be unavailable for two weeks. The application Tiantian Kuaibao (60 million regular users) will only stay removed for three days.
If someone executes a search on the relevant Android app stores for these news applications, some of the stores will state that the download has been suspended in accordance with the supervising departments’ requests, or that they are not available because of ‘content adjustment’. However, some app stores do not display a message at all after receiving the search query.
Moreover, despite Sina News’ claims on the contrary, some of the news apps, namely NetEase News and Jinri Toutiao, do not appear at all in the Android app stores. However, the other two, Tiantian Kuaibao and Ifeng News are still in the stores.
The situation escalated on Tuesday when Chinese content regulators compelled Toutiao to close down once and for all their joke application, Neihan Duanzi. The app had an active user base of over 20 million, however, regulators state that its content that it was propagating was vulgar.
Jinri Toutiao’s CEO and founder Zhang Yiming later released an apology in the form of an open letter, acknowledging that the application was on a track that was different than what was originally intended and that the joke site’s content was not in line with fundamental socialist values.
Zhang further stated their intention to expand the content review team by a further 4,000, totaling in 10,000 employees in the field, in an attempt to avoid punishment from media regulators. Indeed, this has been the third instance that the company has received such a punishment in only two weeks.