Chinese tech giant Tencent is rumored to have contributed $150 million to US social news and discussion platform Reddit’s $300 million Series D, leading to heated discussions over the possibility of future censorship on the platform.
Although still unconfirmed, the news has sparked a backlash from Redditors who have expressed concerns that the site, which is famously known as a home for free speech and many niche communities, could face a purge after receiving investment from Tencent. Users responded to the rumors by reposting content that would be censored in mainland China, including photos of Tank Man.
But some are less worried as the $150 million investment would give Tencent a minor stake. “Someone with a 5% stake in a company isn’t ‘switching people out’. They have ZERO control,” a Reddit user posted.
Tencent declined to comment on the investment when contacted by TechNode.
Others argue that the Chinese government has no incentive to censor Reddit as it is blocked in China. Users claimed that the platform wasn’t popular in the country before the ban given that most of its content is in English.
The rumored investment comes as Tencent faces mounting challenges from its rival Bytedance, both at home and abroad. Bytedance has seen booming growth thanks to its news aggregation app Toutiao and short video app TikTok—known as Douyin in China—over the past few years. The company has quickly become a thorn in the side of the WeChat operator in China.
Fierce, cross-vertical competition in the Chinese market is pushing tech companies to seek opportunities abroad. Investing in Reddit could be a savvy move for Tencent to consolidate its foothold globally, especially since its core business is social networking and media services. The popular American news board platform is much-coveted among Chinese tech giants. Bytedance’s content aggregator Toutiao reportedly tried to buy Reddit last year in line with its goal to become a global media juggernaut.