Toutiao, a hugely popular news and online content portal that is luring investors, was forced to pull its joke sharing “Neihan Duanzi” app, literally meaning “implied jokes”, after a watchdog said it included “vulgar and improper content”.
The move comes amid a broader clamp-down targeting online content from livestreams and blogs to mobile gaming, as the country’s leaders look to tighten their grip over a huge and diverse cultural scene online popular with China’s youth.
China’s State Administration of Radio and Television ordered the app to be taken down permanently in a post on Tuesday for low values that had “caused strong disgust amongst netizens”. It urged Toutiao to regulate similar content on its other sites.
Toutiao, one of the country’s fastest-growing tech start-ups which was valued at around $20 billion last year, has been in hot water with regulators lately. Earlier this week, its main mobile app was also removed from a number of Chinese smartphone app stores following reports of increased censorship.
In a public letter titled “Apology and Introspection”, Toutiao founder Zhang Yiming pledged to raise the number of in-house censors - referred to as content auditors - to 10,000 people from 6,000 currently to keep its content wholesome.
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