Zhang Yiming, Toutiao’s CEO published a letter of apology. He said that he was “sincerely sorry for publishing a product that collided with core Socialist values.” The app had some 17 million users, and was alleged to have carried material that was vulgar or pornographic.
The move came only a day after four other apps were suspended by regulators. The moves are part of a widening crackdown against online pop culture content that is deemed vulgar, challenges authority or presents distorted versions of history. Musicians were recently ordered to cover up tattoos.
The other suspended apps were Tiantian Kauibao, ifeng news and Netease News, as well as Toutiao’s mobile app. Toutiao, which has close to 100 million monthly active users, will not be allowed on download sites for three weeks.
Last week the State Administration for Film and Television criticized Toutiao and Kauishou for their vulgar content. It ordered them the reduce the volume of uploads, suspend new consumer registrations, and to review existing users. Toutiao said that it removed over 10,000 pieces of content in response.
In March, regulators struck out against fan-generated content. They banned parodies and adaptations based on copyright material.
In addition to the cluster of news aggregation services in China, Bytedance also owns social video app Musical.ly. Bytedance officially closed its acquisition of Musical.ly in December in a deal reportedly worth up to $1 billion.
Under Bytedance’s ownership, Musical.ly will continue to operate as an independent platform, headed by co-founders Louis Yang and Alex Zhu, while collaborating with its parent. Musical.ly has announced the creation of a $50 million in a fund to support its users (or “Musers” in the company’s lingo) with scholarship programs and co-development deals with users and media partners.