This is the place where you can earn top dollar for sharing a 60 second personal opinion, and where you can pay to glean thoughts from celebrities, playboys, professors and government bodies alike. We’re talking about Fenda, the Q&A voice message platform, and after a mysterious 47 day suspension, it’s now back in business.
For over a month people were unable to log on, and the popular theory was that Fenda had run into trouble with the regulators. Pay-per-play audio responses on Fenda were a snag for online censors, added to an amplified effect of the information disseminated, due to the influence of option leaders, speculated the Chinese internet.
The theory was to some extent proved as users found that the system had begun to censor responses. Tang Que, a fantasy writer, was unable to upload his response today: “Sorry, according to laws and regulations, your answer contains inappropriate content, please record another answer, or the expenses will be refunded to the question raiser” read an alert as he attempted to upload an answer regarding his recent plans.
“I guess this means Fenda now converts audio text then filters out any sensitive terms? No wonder there was an upgrade, this is regulation driven innovation.” Joked user Shi Kong Weibo.
Despite rampant rumors of restructuring from regulators, Fenda product manager Zhu Xiaohua clung to the official line the time out was meant for scheming larger plans. “During our period of suspension, we’ve been busy developing and updating our platform, the changes are not going to be small, so hold your breath until we unveil them! ” he said in an audio response.
Users who tried to log on to their existing account today were required to register with a mobile phone number, an indirect way of gaining ID and other personal particulars in China, since all numbers that are not registered with an ID will be canceled before the end of October.
Those who flocked to the platform today also discovered that categories for questions had been pruned from a diverse range–including celebrity gossip, music and film, and observations from journalists and famous personalities–to merely three: medicine, workplace related, and popular science. The featured figures are now academic heavyweights, consultants and executives, as opposed to the flashy stars of before, like actress Zhang Ziyi and son of China’s richest man Wang Sicong.
Where once there were few taboos–questions were raised on everything from views on the housing market to dating turn-offs, a few house rules have been laid. On a user notice published three days after the mysterious interruption, the platform spelled out unacceptable comments, including speech that incites racial of ethnic violence, going against the state’s religious polices, leaking state secrets, spreading rumors, and libel.
One of the most outspoken users, film critic and screenwriter Shi Hang acknowledged that things would be different on the once staggeringly popular platform.“The overall atmosphere is slightly more sober or bland, like a bleached out photograph. But that’s alright I suppose, Fenda has worked so hard to recover its services, so the real test now is whether we can reap the most enjoyment from something as humble and simple as this.”