What happened: Cryptocurrency-related chat forums on Baidu Tieba, the popular discussion platform, have disappeared. Sub-forums including “数字货币” (shuzi huobi, digital currency) and “虚拟货币” (xuni huobi, virtual currency) appear to have been taken down, although some related forums remain. A Baidu Tieba representative “hinted” that the blockage was due to discussions of initial coin offerings (which are illegal in China) as well as cryptocurrency trading.
Why it’s important: The news follows reports of a WeChat ban on crypto-related media outlets that occurred last week for similar reasons. The blackouts appear to be a result of a large-scale government effort to monitor virtual currency speculation in China, even for trading platforms whose servers are overseas. Baidu’s ban falls in line with Tencent and Alibaba, which have both announced blocks on crypto-trading transactions carried out via their mobile payment apps.