Biz / Tech

Douyin suspends advertising over insulting content

Zhu Shenshen
Douyin and four other digital media companies suspend their advertisement activities after they were ordered to clean up content that insulted war heroes and martyrs.
Zhu Shenshen

Five digital media companies, including Douyin (Tik Tok), have stopped their advertising business after content insulting war heroes was found on their platforms, the industry regulator said yesterday.

All five firms have pledged to suspend their advertisement activities while they would also face further, but as yet unspecified, punishment from the Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce, the Cyberspace Administration of Shanghai said on its WeChat account.

Directed by the Cyberspace Administration of China, internet regulators and the Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce held talks on June 30 with the companies, asking them to clean up content that insults heroes and martyrs.

The firms were also asked to educate their employees and improve their supervision over advertisement content.

In June, an online advertisement that contained suspected illegal content, such as the slogan “the joke about Qiu Shaoyun being burned in a fire” was broadcast on Douyin and Sogou platforms.

Qiu Shaoyun (1926-1952) died in October 1952 during the Korean War and is considered by the Chinese government to be a war hero.

Tech unicorn Toutiao (ByteDance), Douyin’s parent firm, said yesterday that it would “strictly implement the regulation” and study related laws and policies, including the Law on the Protection of Heroes and Martyrs.

The regulator and the companies didn’t say when they would be able resume their advertising business.

Douyin, the Chinese mini-music-video social network, was the most downloaded iOS application globally in the first quarter of 2018. 

It has attracted 150 million daily active users within less than two years.

China’s online media platforms face challenges in ensuring content quality while diversifying user-generated contents, according to Hou Xuchao, founding partner of China Insights Consultancy, a research firm covering the high-tech industry.

In April, China’s State Administration of Radio and Television ordered the app called “Neihan Duanzi,” a Chinese euphemism for “dirty jokes,” to be shut down permanently because it had “caused strong disgust among netizens.”

The user base of short online videos has surged in recent years, thanks to booming user-generated content and customized algorithms.

The industry, including top players like Kuaishou and Douyin, has so far attracted 202 million users nationwide, a figure that will likely hit 512 million in 2020, according to China Insights.

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