China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced that Douban (豆瓣), one of the country’s most popular social networking platforms, had been removed from app stores along with 105 other apps, citing “excessive collection of personal information.” The move, which was announced through the MIIT’s WeChat official account, “Gong Xin Wei Bao“ (工信微报), quickly became a hotly discussed topic across Chinese social media.
The move comes four months after Douban received a RMB 1.5 million ($235,000) fine for “unlawful” release of information in December. The company, which claims around 200 million registered users, is among a group of Chinese apps including Weibo and Tencent, which were fined for posting “illegal” content. But it’s rare for China’s internet watchdog to send on-site teams to companies.
The removals by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which included popular karaoke app Changba, New York-listed ATRenew's used electronics trading platform AiHuiShou and social network Douban, quickly became the highest trending topic on Weibo, China's censored equivalent of Twitter.
Douban, a social networking platform established in 2005, allows users to share reviews of music, books, films and other hobby-related content. The platform’s “group,” or xiaozu (小组), function works as an online community for people who have shared interests in certain celebrities, pop culture trends, films and so on, allowing them to share their thoughts and responses.
Earlier, it suspended functions that allowed users to comment or reply to posts amid an official crackdown on what the authorities labeled as "chaotic celebrity fan culture."
In its announcement, the ministry said it had conducted inspections of apps for violations such as permission requests for users’ personal information that exceed what was necessary for advertised services, and inducing users to download apps through deceptive means. The MIIT said that the first five apps listed, including Douban and the popular karaoke app Changba (唱吧), had not completed “rectification” as required by the ministry, coming into full compliance with the Cybersecurity Law and the Personal Information Protection Law.
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