One of China’s most commercially valuable social media accounts has gone offline after being criticized for stoking “social anxiety.”
Major platforms including Toutiao and Ifeng News issued statements Thursday condemning the account for “circulating vulgar content” and “endangering social stability,” adding that they would be banning Mimeng-produced content on their sites.
With over 14 million subscribers, Mimeng was widely seen as one of China’s most commercially valuable accounts. But its closure may not come as a surprise to its fans. Earlier this month, Mimeng publicly apologized for the “negative influence” a recent article had triggered in China.
The article told the supposedly true story of a young man, who, despite ranking highly in college entrance exams, was unable to become successful due to his poor background and unwillingness to compromise his values to get rich. In the end of the tragic story, the intelligent young man died of cancer before he had had the chance to amount to anything.
The post echoed contemporary tensions exacerbated by China’s income gap, and quickly went viral online – particularly among those who consider China’s competitive exams to be the only way for children from disadvantaged families to better their future prospects.
But then, readers accused Mimeng of faking information to mislead audiences. In the article, for instance, Mimeng said the young man’s “top” score on his college entrance examination was 693, whereas the highest in Sichuan province was 707. Others questioned why the post’s writers would focus on minor details like the Rolex watch a man in the story was wearing, and the appearance of a woman’s cleavage, when simply referring to a conversation. The article also mentioned a “Nobel Math Prize” – which doesn’t exist.
Mimeng later removed the article. The team responded that the story was true, but that Mimeng had changed some details to protect characters involved in the article.
Mimeng was founded by Ma Ling, a reporter who spent over 10 years in a subsidiary of Nanfang Media, one of the country’s most powerful media groups, which owns several outlets famous for investigative reporting.
The Mimeng account covered wildly popular topics often not included in mainstream media. Past article titles include “Bitches: Why Would I Help You?” and “I Just Love this Material World.”
In early 2018, Mimeng said it had netted an eight-digit revenue over the course of a year.
Now, its success is no more. A comment in a Party-run newspaper said: “Mimeng underestimated the debates and pressure it was facing. (…) Media accounts (like this) only have faith in traffic and money, if they have any faith at all.”