China’s online censorship makes its way to e-commerce as Pinduoduo cleans up

China isn’t limited to just censoring content-generating platforms within the country. Pinduoduo, the social e-commerce upstart, launched a cleanup campaign to remove all the products that are related to violence or pornography, local media is reporting.

The purge follows an investigation published by state-backed legal media, which reveals that lots of violent and pornographic products are on sale on the platform, such as lethal knives, pseudo base stations, erotic games, and sex dolls.

Before the media coverage, Pinduoduo has been seeking to address this issue, according to the company. As of May this year, the firm screened merchandise from 2180 stores that may sell “illegal” goods and have placed sanctions or shut down the relevant retailers, the company told local media.

“Since our establishment, Pinduoduo has been asking our retailers to comply strictly with the laws. We have launched a 24-hour automatic monitoring system to remove illegal products. The system is coupled with human monitors to guarantee a real-time response.” according to an official announcement from the company.

China’s new and stricter cybersecurity laws come to effect last year, which would pressure private entities to censor content the government deems prohibited. The effect of this law, or the country’s general intention towards a more stringent local regulation, is instant. Upcoming giant ByteDance bares the brunt of this trend with all the dramas in Toutiao, Douyin and Neihan Duanzi. Other top services like Kuaishou, Meipai also suffered from the blow. But most of them are platforms that generate contents or social media apps so far. It seems the censorship is gradually penetrating other areas.

Updated 12:26 am 8th June 2018: The post is updated to clarify that China’s new cybersecurity law was adopted by the NPC in November 2016 and came into effect in June 2017.