Music apps

China silences podcast, music apps as online crackdown intensifies – TechCrunch


Audio applications are flying high in China. In 2018, online listeners in the country grew 22.1% to exceed 400 million, at a rate far exceeding that of the mobile video and e-reading populations, according to the iiMedia market research.

But the emerging sector is taking a hit. A total of 26 audio-focused apps were ordered to terminate, suspend services or have discussions with regulators on Friday as they were under investigation and believed to have spread. “historical nihilism” and “pornography”, according to a notice published by Cyberspace. Administration of China (CAC).

The crackdown was, in a way, foreshadowed by a recent attack on user-generated audio. Last month, Apple banned Chinese users from accessing podcasts that are not hosted by its local partners, preventing those with Chinese Apple accounts from consuming content not controlled by Chinese censors.

It is not uncommon for Chinese authorities to tackle a burgeoning media area. As abridged videos took off in 2018, the government issued similar guidelines asking Douyin (TikTok for China), Kuaishou and many others to purge “illegal” content. The year before, a multitude of live streaming apps were in the crosshairs.

The CAC, the country’s main internet regulator, has disclosed only four of the apps it is attacking. Those services are eclipsed by the size of users compared to mega-apps like WeChat or Douyin, the most successful – Soul – used on six million devices as of May, according to data from analytics firm iResearch.

Still, people have reported on social media that larger services have disappeared from app stores as well. China’s leading podcast-sharing app Himalaya FM and its little rival Lizhi FM, for example, have been pulled from some Chinese Android markets, including one operated by Xiaomi.

Himalaya FM has been pulled from a number of Chinese Android stores. Screenshot: TechCrunch

Music apps also appear to be under fire from critics. Searches for “NetEase Cloud Music,” a music streaming service operated by Internet titan NetEase, on a few local Android stores returned the alert that the app is not available for download due to “maintenance. ” In progress.

NetEase Cloud Music has been removed from a number of Chinese Android stores. Screenshot: TechCrunch

As of Monday afternoon, Himalaya FM, Lizhi FM and Netease Cloud Music are still available for download through Apple’s Chinese App Store, where Beijing surveillance has historically been slower to come.

This is not the first time that online music platforms have come under scrutiny in China. The government has at times disowned and censored songs, including more recently works by Li Zhi, an outspoken musician who allegedly disappeared before the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. None of Li’s songs are currently found on major music streaming apps in China.

li zhi

Popular rock musician Li Zhi’s songs are missing from all major Chinese music streaming apps. / Screenshot: TechCrunch

Himalaya FM, Lizhi FM and NetEase could not be reached for comment at the time of writing. We will update the story if we have any news from the companies.

The Chinese audio market has been allowed to “bounce back” for a long time and create an “adverse influence” on teenagers, so action needs to be taken, ACC said. The regulator accused companies of chasing after custom podcasts featuring content like pornography, superstition and, to everyone’s surprise, “two-dimensional culture,” a term for a rapidly growing industry made up of anime, comics and games inspired by Japanese pop culture. .

The Communist Party is certainly on the lookout for the expansion of the universe of content imported from a country over which it has historical grievances. Besides the deletion, the party has also responded by creating its own anime – one about Karl Marx – to appeal to younger generations. Of course, the series was due to air on Bilibili, the Nasdaq-listed video streaming platform that has long been a favorite haven for Chinese fans of 2D and youth cultures.