China Punishes ByteDance, Tencent-Backed Apps in Clampdown
(Bloomberg) — China penalized 10 of the country’s most popular livestreaming apps, suspending some of their operations in a renewed crackdown on fast-growing services backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd. and ByteDance Ltd.
Regulators singled out ByteDance’s Xigua and three apps run by Tencent-backed companies — Bilibili Inc., Huya Inc. and DouYu International Holdings Ltd. Punishments ranged from halting new user sign-ups to suspending content updates for “main channels,” the Cyberspace Administration of China said in a notice posted Tuesday.
The watchdog said those services must rectify vulgar and other problematic content. The administration also said it blacklisted selected livestreaming hosts, without elaborating. NetEase Inc.’s CC Live and Baidu Inc.’s Quanmin were also among those named.
The government is intensifying scrutiny over the country’s internet giants as they deepen forays into content and as user contingents grow into the hundreds of millions. Livestreaming in particular has burgeoned as platforms including Bilibili and DouYu become vibrant social media forums that penetrate well beyond cities and into the countryside, enabling an explosion of communications that’s proven increasingly difficult to monitor. That in turn has fostered a growing cohort of online influencers with followings in the millions.
It’s unclear what the content suspensions encompass. Huya and DouYu, which divide content into channels like games and entertainment, posted in the main recommendation section of their apps that they “suspended updates” since Tuesday, without elaborating. Representatives of Baidu, Bilibili, ByteDance, Huya, NetEase and DouYu didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The migration of viewership online during the pandemic has only accelerated the phenomenon. The regulators said they imposed the punishments after examining 31 major streaming platforms.
China’s top state broadcaster recently criticized Huya for hosting gaming ads in a channel offering free online courses for homebound students. In response, the company closed its learning page and offered refunds to minors who spent their parents’ money on games, the app said in a statement.
In April, Chinese regulators suspended key channels in Baidu’s flagship mobile app, citing vulgar content. That two-week punishment could reduce revenue from the company’s core search and feed business in the June quarter by close to 2%, according to an estimate by Jefferies analyst Thomas Chong.
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