Chinese govt ups scrutiny on mobile news apps

China has initiated a crackdown on mobile apps that offer news services but failed to obtain the necessary regulatory approval, which are notoriously difficult to obtain.
Written by Cyrus Lee, Contributor

The Chinese government has singled out a list of mobile apps that it says offer news services but failed to obtain the necessary approval from regulators.

Several popular mobile apps offering news and information services, including Chouti, Zaker News Reader, and 3G Portal News, have been deemed to contain either pornography or obscene content or publish false information, according to a statement by the State Internet Information Office, quoted in a report by Xinhua Net.

Some of these apps openly advertise "inappropriate information" or promote opinion pieces portrayed as "not suitable for the public to discuss", the government agency said. These obscene information will severely harm the health of youngsters, it said, adding that some mobile appstores also assisted the download of illegal news apps due to their loose internal verification mechanism.

Mobile news apps that fail to rectify the issue will be shut down, said the State Internet Information Office.

Why have mobile news apps become targets of the Chinese government's expanding Internet crackdown? First, a common issue faced by non-portal and smaller news apps is the difficulty of obtaining approval from the regulator. The authority requires news apps to hire 10 or more full-time news editor, among whom at least five are required to have at least three years work experience as full-time news editors in news organizations. The news apps also need to pay high registered capital, which many are unable to afford, according to DoNews.

At the same time, all of these mobile news apps are aiming to differentiate their content in a bid to stand out from competitors. It is inevitably then that some of these apps will post information that touch on topics related to the government and that are different from other that flood the internet, DoNews added.

For example, Chouti's slogan is "publish all that should not be published". And other mobile news apps provide a channel for subscribers to read articles that have been blocked in China, such as those published by the New York Times, according a Reuters report.

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