Four popular news apps suspended in China

The Chinese government is further tightening its grip on the internet by suspending a number of news apps that were said to be competing for users with 'vulgar' content.

Four Chinese news apps, whose combined active users have exceeded 400 million, have been suspended for downloads on a number of Android app stores in China following a crackdown by the country's media watchdog.

The four news apps -- Jinri Toutiao, Ifeng News, NetEase News, and Tiantian Kuaibao -- were removed from several Android app stores at 3.00pm on Monday following requests from relevant regulators, according to a Sina news report.

Jinri Toutiao, which owns 263 million active users, has been suspended for downloads for three weeks. Ifeng News, with 56 million active users, is being removed for two weeks, while NetEase News with 60 million users and Tiantian Kuaibao with 45 million users are absent from most Android apps stores for one week and three days, respectively, said the reports.

Android apps stores display search results such as "Download services are suspended on requests of the supervising departments" and "Apps are unavailable for downloads due to contents adjustments" when the sites are searched for, while some stores displayed no results at all.

Although the Sina news report said downloads of these four news apps were not affected in Apple's App Store, a recent test showed that Jinri Toutiao and NetEase News no longer show up in a name search, while Ifeng News and Tiantian Kuaibao are still available for download there.

On Tuesday, the Chinese regulator ordered Jinri Toutiao to permanently close its joke app Neihan Duanzi, whose active users exceed 20 million, for vulgar content.

Jinri Toutiao's founder and CEO Zhang Yiming subsequently apologized in an open letter, admitting that the product was developing down the wrong path and that content on Neihan Duanzi was against core socialist values.

Toutiao will expand its content reviewing team from current 6,000 people to 10,000 to strengthen content control, according to Zhang.

It marks the third time Jinri Toutiao has been punished by the regulatory authorities in China in just two weeks, said the Sina report, on the back of the government's continuous efforts to purify the internet environment.

China shut down 128,000 websites that contained obscene and other "harmful" information last year, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing government data. Since the country's first ever cybersecurity law officially taking effect on June 1, 2017, regulators have punished a number of technology giants in China, including Tencent, Sina, and Baidu after their respective WeChat, Sina Weibo, and Baidu Tieba platforms were found circulating "fake and vulgar" information.

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