Beijing wipes out 9,300 apps, blasts Tencent's news service

HONG KONG • China is stepping up its efforts to rein in the country's Internet, singling out Tencent's popular news app for spreading vulgar information while shutting down more than 700 websites and thousands of apps in the span of just three weeks.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has scrubbed the Web of more than seven million items since Jan 3, deleting more than 9,300 smartphone apps to screen out information deemed inappropriate or harmful, the watchdog said in a notice distributed to the media.

Tencent's Tian Tian Kuai Bao, which means quick daily news, was singled out for spreading "vulgar and low-brow content that was harmful and damaging to the Internet ecosystem", the agency said.

The regulator also criticised Huaban, a photosharing social network, as having "serious ecosystem problems".

Huaban said on its website that its online service had been temporarily taken down for upgrades.

The latest raft of shutdowns, part of a six-month campaign intended to eradicate "vulgarity" from the domestic Internet, stands out for its scale and speed.

Search engines Baidu and Sohu were ordered to suspend a plethora of news services just weeks ago.

Beijing has increasingly taken a hard line as the country's Internet ecosystem flourishes, instigating crackdowns on video games and social media that have hurt industry leaders, such as WeChat operator Tencent and the world's largest start-up, Bytedance.

 

Control of the Internet has tightened under Chinese President Xi Jinping - an effort that has accelerated since 2016, as the ruling Communist Party seeks to crack down on dissent in the booming social media landscape.

The moves represent the most severe digital crackdown in China's history, shuttering services or temporarily forcing them from app stores for spreading everything from crude jokes to banned information.

Last November, the CAC scrubbed 9,800 social media accounts of independent news providers for violations that included spreading politically harmful information and falsifying the history of the Communist Party.

Tencent, whose shares fell 0.8 per cent in Hong Kong, said it could not immediately comment.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2019, with the headline 'Beijing wipes out 9,300 apps, blasts Tencent's news service'. Print Edition | Subscribe