The National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) has formally reprimanded 12 online reading platforms from July 15 to July 17 for spreading vulgar content, state media outlet People reported.

Why it matters: Regulators are making it increasingly difficult for online reading platforms to operate. This most recent round is the third time in two months that online reading apps have been punished for offering content which violates regulations.

  • The censured apps are some of the most widely used platforms including Migu Yuedu, iQiyi Wenxue, and Qidian, which are ranked 4th, 7th, and 23rd on Apple’s China App store free reading app download rankings as of Monday morning, according to online data provider Qimai.

Details: Officials at the NPPA accused the platforms of using vulgar titles and thumbnail images as well as offering sexually suggestive, provocative, and stimulating content in order to attract users.

  • The NPPA criticized certain platforms for recommending novels with “identical or farcical plots.”
  • Authorities also cited competitions held on the platforms promising authors large monetary rewards, censuring the platforms for “promoting money-worship and hedonism.”
  • The NPPA demanded that the platforms remove all novels with non-compliant content, and develop better content filters.

Context: Just a week ago, the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications (NOAPIP) asked a number of regulators to suspend three reading apps for up to three months for explicit and borderline sexual content. The apps included the most popular free reading app in China on iOS, Midu Novel, and Beijing-based Jinjiang Wenxue Cheng, which was banned for 15 days in May.

  • The three suspended platforms are still updating their official Weibo accounts frequently to promote featured novels and events.

Tony Xu is Shanghai-based tech reporter. Connect with him via e-mail:

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