Ahoy, it's a fate for Reddit after the company had welcomed the investment of Chinese censorship overlord Tencent.
Well, not quite.
The reality is actually the opposite. By recruiting the company behind one of the largest and most dynamic social networks on the Internet – the chat app WeChat – and countless blockbuster games, Reddit has made a big splash and brought in a huge amount of cash that can both help grow it the next level.
But reports in the US are proposing something different at the moment. After Reddit's recent round of investment, first reported by TechCrunch and led by Tencent, you saw a series of negative stories last week that the company estimated at $ 3 billion.
Last week sparked by a Gizmodo story It's feared that a deal with the "Chinese powerhouse of censorship" could mislead Reddit and ruin his morale, whatever that may be. Reddit users who do not lack humor have already plastered the site with content that would be banned in China, including Winnie the Pooh, the cartoon character who often represented Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Gizmodo called Tencent "One of the main architects of the Great Firewall," and this is a refrain repeated in countless other reports.
I understand it is a delicious irony; one of the most lawless parts of the Internet, where forces are combined with a company that aggressively monitors and censors its users. In addition, Reddit is already blocked in China.
But unfortunately Gizmodo's fears are exaggerated and the description of Tencent is at best naive and in the worst case intentionally misguided.
China's Censorship System  Tencent is not an "architect" of the Chinese internet censorship program Great Firewall. It is one of several companies that, due to its success, is a prominent target for the government with little room for maneuver.
Tencent is certainly in an uncomfortable position. It is the largest Internet company in China – it was the first $ 500 billion company in Asia last year – and is therefore an integral part of the government's ongoing campaign to control China's Internet space.
Following unprecedented action against Twitter Like the Dienst Weibo in 2012, when the government closed its comments for three days, China's censorship became more active than reactive. On the one hand, this approach leaves fewer traces and allows Beijing to shift responsibility onto the platforms themselves, which fear the effects of angry authorities.
This means that today's momentum has prompted China's leading Internet companies, including Tencent, to monitor the content produced by their users and remove it if necessary.
Censoring social networks is one thing, but censoring WeChat – the valued asset of Tencent and China's best messaging app with more than a billion monthly users – is another matter. Tencent has been somewhat (and rightly) criticized for implementing a series of "silent" blocks that, in certain circumstances, prevent messages from being sent or retrieved by the recipient.
Similarly, millions of accounts have been deleted by WeChat After numerous rounds of government initiatives addressing media, pornography and unfounded rumors,
These raids and censorship movements are not wrong, but Gizmodo paints a picture suggesting that Tencent involved in the cleaning of his slate.
The truth is that the company, even a company of its size, has no choice when the Chinese government taps on demands. Ignoring the summons or not acting would cause Tencent – a listed company – to cause serious problems that are not good for its shareholders. Compliance with these requirements is costly and resource-intensive, requiring a new content validation department to hire and train specialized staff. In short, it is certainly not something that companies voluntarily engage in.
A Rite of Passage
Tencent definitely has no control over the agenda, as anyone who has technical aspects in China can tell you. The company suffered a bad end at the end of 2018, also because the Chinese government had decided to freeze new licenses for the game.
Tencent could no longer monetize his new games. In this situation, the company lost countless millions of income and revenue The stock price fell between March and October by almost 50 percent. Freezing has just started, with a handful of licenses being tentatively distributed this year.
So much for the Chinese government, which cares about their own.
These issues affect every technology company in China with a significant presence. Being hit by government demands and censorship requests is a rite for tech startups in China, like a dreaded honorary title showing that your service has grown as a threat.
That happened to ByteDance, the company behind TikTok, the current social favorite of many US media. Last year, the CEO made an apologetic apology after overemphasizing growth and scaling over quality and responsibility.
The company decided to increase its content checker (reading, censorship police) from 6,000 to 10,000 likely made to reassure the government. However, an example was made of this, with a number of TikTok apps removed from the app stores and limited to the word of the authorities.
Welcome to the club!
However, these are not just Chinese companies.
Apple, the self-proclaimed Protector of Freedom, has removed any unlicensed VPN from the company's China-based App Store In a rare move that runs counter to the core of data protection, the company rejected state regulations and agreed to store Chinese iCloud user data on Chinese soil through a government-sponsored cloud service provider
The difference between Apple and people like Tencent and ByteDance is that the US company has a choice. It voluntarily came to China and fulfilled the demand for freedom of expression in order to continue its income.
Tencent and ByteDance, the largest Internet players, would find it hard to move outside their home country and stay in business. In today's censored era, some Chinese companies may wish to have their start in Hong Kong or some other domain, but few markets have the opportunity that 800 million Internet users bring with them.
The point is that they have no control over censorship demands and no leverage to push back. To blame them – and to paint them as co-conspirators, even "architects" – is misleading.
In fact, Tencent has a reputation as a talented investor, which may be beneficial to non-Chinese companies.
Thanks to the funds and guidance, Fortnite developer Epic Games has been able to completely redesign its business to achieve the success of today's success. Anders is Tencent's biggest single investor in Snap – CEO Evan Spiegel said he often seeks advice – and his other businesses include Tesla, Discord, Kik and more, which did not lead to censorship.
Yes, Reddit and Tencent are weird bedfellows, but that's the point of venture capital. The best founders surround themselves with different opinions, perspectives and experiences to make sure that they evaluate all possible strategies. Tencent can provide Reddit with unique insights that can only be a positive outcome for the future health of Reddit's business and its ongoing service to those who use it.