The government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has ordered the removal from app stores of social media company Douban (豆瓣) and 105 other apps.
On Thursday (December 9) the PRC Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said that it had launched an investigation on November 3rd and found that the 106 apps were in violation of the country’s Personal Information Protection Law and Data Security Law.
Among the apps were Douban, mobile karaoke app Changba (唱吧), second-hand electronics marketplace Aishouhui (爱回收) and news app Kan Kan News (看看新闻).
Douban was accused of collecting excessive user data and thus infinging upon the rights of consumers.
On December 2, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) announced that it had summoned and fined Douban 1.5 million RMB ($235,000) over unlawful release of information. The company had already been fined 9 million RMB in November.
According to the MIIT, the 106 app providers failed to comply with the government’s directives.
In late 2020 Beijing launched a sweeping anti-monopoly and data security crackdown that hit tech companies such as e-commerce platform Alibaba and games and social media company Tencent.
Douban was launched in 2005 as a platform for film and book reviews. It has earned a reputation for being a liberal website in the PRC’s heavily censored internet landscape.
By 2019 the site had 160 million active users and 600,000 forums in which official government narratives and traditional values were often questioned and debated.
According to Quartz, Douban’s user base was on average urban, well-educated and supportive of progressive values such as LGBTQ rights.
Douban has been repeatedly targeted by the government in recent years and some of its functions were temporarily disabled. As a result of the crackdown, the app now has only 10 million active users.
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