China Silences App Giving Citizens Access to Western Entertainment

A Chinese customer looks at a phone at the official opening of the new Apple Store in the Sanlitun shopping area on July 17, 2020 in Beijing, China. The new store replaces Apple's first ever China store which opened in 2008 prior to the Beijing Olympics adjacent to the new …
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A popular Chinese streaming application that specialized in foreign TV shows and movies was removed from Apple’s App Store on Sunday, reportedly to address problems with “illegal” and “problematic” content.

Renren Video, also known as rr.tv, is one of the largest online video platforms in China, boasting over 160 million registered users. The most problematic aspect of the service appears to be its “Kuaikan” or “quick view” video clip section, which provided capsule summaries of films and TV series episodes. The company said on Sunday its Kuaikan service has been suspended for alleged legal violations.

“The announcement posted in the ‘Kuaikan’ column of the rr.tv app on Sunday states that it accepts criticisms from users and will immediately shelve the function and look into the matter, vowing to deal seriously with the illegal content and accounts involved according to the law on network information management,” China’s state-run Global Times reported Sunday.

A coalition of Chinese streaming services in April issued a joint statement complaining about short video platforms distributing copyrighted material and subjecting it to unauthorized edits. Renren and its subsidiaries were involved in several recent investigations of video piracy, but it remains popular with Chinese viewers who say it gives them quicker access to subtitled versions of foreign programming.

Video pirates and streaming sites with questionable adherence to copyright laws also help Chinese viewers get around their government’s strict quotas on foreign programming and heavy-handed censorship. Fans of streamers such as Renren say they are willing to pay for licensed copies of foreign films and TV shows, but the Chinese government blocks foreign companies from selling them timely access to unedited programming.

According to the Global Times, rr.tv has not been completely shut down. The Apple version of the app was still functional as of Monday morning for those who downloaded it before it was removed from the App Store, and Android users can still download it. The Kuaikan short-video service appears to have been halted on all platforms, however.

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