6. Communist censors whack a tech unicorn
The Chinese internet is in the midst of one of the toughest content purification campaigns in years.
What's happening: The concept of “Core Socialist Values” — prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship — is now written into the Constitution, and examples are being made of internet firms that are not promoting them to the censors’ liking.
The latest target is Bytedance, a private firm worth more than $30 billion that is best known for its news, video and humor apps. The company also owns musical.ly, a music video mashup app hugely popular in the U.S. The firm has been penalized before, but clearly CEO Zhang Yiming had not properly processed the message.
- Bytedance was ordered to shut its massively popular humor app Neihan Duanzi 内涵段子, according to various news sources. In addition to the lack of adherence to "Core Socialist Values" was another, potentially bigger problem for the Communist Party — the network of groups "段友会" of users of the app that had sprung up all over the country, which held offline meetings.
- Be smart: The party fears nothing more than a cross-geography, cross-social-strata organizing capability outside of party control and direction.
In response, Zhang’s ritual, abject groveling apology reads like something out of an earlier era:
"As a start-up company ... we profoundly understand that our rapid development was an opportunity afforded us by this great era. I thank this era. I thank the historic opportunity of economic reform and opening; and I thank the support the government has given for the development of the technology industry."
"I profoundly reflect on the fact that a deep-level cause of the recent problems in my company is: a weak [understanding and implementation of] the 'four consciousnesses' [of Xi Jinping]; deficiencies in education on the socialist core values; and deviation from public opinion guidance. All along, we have placed excessive emphasis on the role of technology, and we have not acknowledged that technology must be led by the socialist core value system, broadcasting positive energy, suiting the demands of the era, and respecting common convention."
Go deeper: Read China Media Project’s Tech Shame in the “New Era” and NYT’s "Horns Honk, and Censors in China Get a Headache".