Briefing: Baidu and Sohu services suspended for ‘vulgar’ content

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Baidu, Sohu Get Caught in Latest Chinese Internet Clampdown–Bloomberg

What happened: In the first part of an announced six-month internet cleanup effort, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) suspended updates for some of Baidu and Sohu’s content and news services due to “vulgar” content. The weeklong ban will last from January 3rd to the 10th. While the specifics of the offense were left unclear, shares for both companies have dropped. Baidu and Sohu have said they will comply with official efforts to “rectify” their services.

Why it’s important: The CAC’s latest campaign has a broad scope including online services from messaging to livestreaming. In addition, areas covered include not just vulgar content and pornography but also gambling and promotion of “unhealthy lifestyles.” Although the effects, for now, are temporary, similar cleanups in the past have led to moves like Toutiao hiring 2,000 new content review editors or Pinduoduo banning or suspending e-commerce stores. Even more tech giants will likely be forced to clean up their acts as China’s latest internet crackdown continues.