Alibaba-Backed Shopping App Removed From Android Stores
Download links for an Alibaba-backed social e-commerce platform were removed from the Android app stores of multiple major phone brands in China in what analysts said may be part of a government online content crackdown.
The six-year-old e-commerce platform Xiaohongshu focuses on fashion and beauty. Its name translates as “little red book,” and it has at least 250 million registered users and 85 million active monthly users, according to a company release earlier this month.
Phone brands affected since Monday night include Huawei, Oppo and Meizu. Xiaohongshu didn’t comment on the reason for the removal but said Wednesday it was aware of the situation and has been working with authorities to resolve the matter.
The app was still available Wednesday in Apple’s App Store. Apple declined to comment. Multiple industry analysts told Caixin it might be just a matter of time for different app stores to remove the app, as regulators were likely to have sent the command to all stores and there is usually a time gap in receiving orders.
Xiaohongshu’s setback came amid a broader crackdown on online content that runs afoul of government regulations. In late June, the Cyberspace Administration launched an inspection of online audio content in which 26 platforms were warned or barred from business because of allegations of offering illegal content.
Sources close to the company told Caixin the removal is most likely due to problems in user-generated content (UGC) shared on the platform. One industry watcher who declined to be identified told Caixin it is not a surprise that this happened as the online shopping community’s user size and busy traffic have posed increasing content-control risks under China’s tightening regulation of cyberspace content.
Founded in 2013 in Shanghai, the social e-commerce platform now produces roughly 3 billion items of information shared in its user community daily, 70% of which are UGC, according to a July 17company release.
The social e-commerce platform has been run into controversies several times in the past year, for accusations ranging from fake review to illegal content. In April for example, the platform was reported by multiple local media for having at least 95,000 pieces of online marketing information related to cigarettes which is against governmental rules.
The app also ranked No.10 in a list of most frequently complained companies released by Shanghai Consumers Council on Tuesday, with more than 1,000 complaints filed in the city in the first six months of 2019.
Backed by a group of investors including Alibaba as well as Tencent, Xiaohongshu was seen as one of the most popular vertical e-commerce online communities in China. Last June, the company announced completion of its series-D fundraising of $300 million, with a market valuation of over $3 billion.
The app is especially popular among younger generations in China, who share their shopping experiences on the platform by posting product reviews with pictures, texts, and videos. Users could also buy products directly through the platform. The company was just about to step up its e-commerce business by leveraging its good traffic, according to a February company letter.
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