Chinese authorities have reportedly suspended four popular news apps from the country’s Android store in an attempt to tighten control over the spread of news and information.
The South China Morning Post reports that state regulators demanded that four news services including Toutiao, Phoenix News, NetEase News, and Tiantian Kuaibao remove their downloading services by 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon.
The move is reportedly an attempt by authorities to “regulate order in the broadcasting environment” as the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) seeks to clamp down on all possible political dissent and spreading of negative information.
According to the state propaganda outlet Global Times, “complaints about the heavy advertising, fake news and vulgar content of apps have been rising in recent years.”
“Some news portals are running without qualifications, and have been publishing fake news or news that contains wrong political information, which could easily mislead people, especially the young and elderly,” the Times quotes Wang Sixin, a law professor at the Beijing-based Communication University of China, as saying.
Wang went on to suggest that to “better regulate the market, government regulators should strengthen law enforcement and impose harsher penalties on news platforms that publish illegal content.”
With the rise of the internet, the control of news and information has become an increasing priority for the government, who have made strict regulation and rampant censorship part of everyday life for Chinese people. Authorities have shut down over 13,000 websites in the last three years alone.
Measures taken include the use of a “Great Firewall,” which selectively blocks content such as gambling, pornography, political dissidence, criticism of the government and other activities that the government deems detrimental to society.
Last week, internet censors made special efforts to block searches for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un under his nickname “Fatty the Third” during his brief visit to China, while they have previously China banned references to the children’s literary character Winnie the Pooh over comparisons made between him and president Xi Jinping.
The government has also managed to use technology to its advantage by creating Chinese only platforms that mean people do not use American platforms such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook.
Last October, the CPC boasted of having over 100 smartphone apps designed to allow the government officials to more accurately track their underlings’ loyalty, measured in part by how much communist propaganda is consumed on the app.