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China’s top news app suspended for neglecting socialist values

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One of China's biggest news aggregator apps apologized Wednesday for overstressing technology while neglecting education on core socialist values, after the app was temporarily removed from online app stores, and its sub-app was closed for containing vulgar contents.

Zhang Yiming, founder of Jinri Toutian, one of China's most popular aggregators, apologized on his Sina Weibo account on early Wednesday, saying the company "overstressed technology, but ignored the fact that technology should be used to guide users' socialist core values, spread positive energy, meet the requirements of the times and respect public order and good custom."

Zhang's comments came after the app was removed from online stores on Monday, and its joke app Neihan Duanzi was permanently closed for vulgar content on Tuesday. The Jinri Toutiao app closed five channels, including "Qutu" (interesting pictures), "Meitu" (beautiful pictures) and "Meinv" (beautiful women), as part of the rectification, it said Wednesday.

Jinri Toutiao had 120 million daily active users, according to data released by the company.

Along with Jinri Toutiao, three other popular news apps, Phoenix News, NetEase News and Tiantian Kuaibao, were also removed temporarily from online app shops on Monday to "regulate the dissemination of information," the information platforms said.

Following them, Douyin, a go-to short video platform, closed its live broadcasts and comments to upgrade and provide better service to its users. The app will launch an anti-addiction system, news site thepaper.cn reported on Wednesday.

In his apology letter, Zhang pledged to expand his company's team of content reviewers from the current 6,000 to 10,000, while creating a list of banned users and developing better technology to improve censorship.

Jinri Toutiao is not alone.

Short video app Kuaishou will also add another 3,000 employees to police content after the government asked it to rectify the situation last week. Employees must have a high degree of political consciousness, and members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Communist Youth League Committee (CYLC) are preferred, news site thepaper.cn reported.

Su Hua, Kuaishou CEO, said earlier this month that "we must add some humanistic perspectives to the algorithm. I believe the algorithm has its value, and we must make it realize and even amplify the values we insist on," Science and Technology Daily reported.

Wang Sixin, a law professor at the Beijing-based Communication University of China, told Global Times that hiring people with a high degree of political consciousness and Party and Youth League members help these companies filter information and provide the Party's perspective.

"They also better police the content. After all, they were approved by the country and the Party," Wang noted.



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