Watchdog in China Shuts Down Toutiao Joke App Due to Vulgar Content

In China, a platform that features risqué jokes is considered to be a no laughing matter.

A widely popular news and online content portal called Toutiao that is luring investors was forced to shut down its joke sharing app called “Neihan Duanzi.” The name of the app literally means “implied jokes.” The portal was forced to pull out the said app after a watchdog said that it included “vulgar and improper content.”

The said move comes amid a larger clamp-down that is targeting online content from various live streams and blogs to mobile gaming, as the leaders of the country look to tighten their grip over a vast and diverse cultural scene that is popular online with the youth of China.

In a post on Tuesday, the State Administration of Radio and Television of China imposed an order that the app should be permanently taken down because of low values that had “caused strong disgust amongst netizens.” The watchdog called on Toutiao to regulate other similar content that is featured on its other sites.

Toutiao is one of the fastest-growing tech start-ups in the country. It was valued at approximately $20 billion in 2017. However, it has been in hot water with the regulators lately. Earlier this week, the company’s main mobile app was also pulled out from some Chinese smartphone app stores after reports of heightened censorship.

In a public letter that is titled “Apology and Introspection,” Zhang Yiming, the founder of Toutiao, promised to raise the number of in-house censors – which are referred to as content auditors – from the 6,000 employees who currently ensures that its content are wholesome to 10,000 people.

On Wednesday, he wrote a letter that was posted on his official microblog account saying: “This product walked the wrong path and had content in deviation of socialist core values.”