This past weekend, various media outlets published what appeared to be a government press release about a recent crackdown on porn. Two content aggregators, Bytedance’s popular Jinri Toutiao and Doubao Kuxun, were singled out for hosting “vulgar” content. Both received temporary suspension of certain services, as well as an unspecified “maximum administrative penalty.”

The investigation was carried out by Beijing’s Cultural Law Enforcement Agency in accordance with tipoffs by China’s national office for “wiping out porn and fighting illegal publications” (扫黄打非, our translation).

In October, the agency began its investigation into Jinri Toutiao, eventually uncovering 16 pornographic articles on the app’s “Stories” channel. The report doesn’t specify exactly what kind of content they comprised, although it does offer a couple of salacious titles such as “After an incredible night, it turned out that man was her new boss” (also our translation).

On November 5, the law enforcement agency ordered Bytedance to delete the unlawful content and suspended updates for the “Stories” channel for a month.

Last month, the agency also began an investigation into Doubao that turned up an unspecified number of “online audiovisual programs with pornographic content.” According to the release, the app’s “Society” channel formerly hosted a video of a “surprise threesome” in a Shanghai gym, among other things.

The agency ordered Doubao to delete the videos and also gave the company a warning on November 7. In addition, the app’s “Society” feature and “related channels” are currently offline.

Although the article doesn’t elaborate on an additional “maximum administrative penalty” for both apps, it does refer to a set of rules published in 2016 on the website of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Those laws specify that illicit online content – which includes slander and superstitions as well as porn – can be punished by hefty fines in addition to more stringent measures. For “serious” cases, authorities may order a company to temporarily stop their services, revoke a telecommunication business license, or shut down a website.

This is not the first time that the widely-used Toutiao has come under fire by Chinese regulators. This past May, the Culture and Tourism Industry said it would investigate the app after it hosted a comic poking fun at a Communist martyr. And the month before that, authorities ordered Toutiao to shut down its joke app due to “vulgar content” – while also actively banning the content aggregator and other news providers from app stores.

Bailey Hu is based in China’s hardware capital, Shenzhen. Her interests include local maker culture, grassroots innovation and how tech shapes society, as well as vice versa.

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