Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Tencent stake in Reddit sparks censorship fears

Users protest after Tencent invests in Reddit Tencent invests $150m in Reddit sparking free speech protests across the site
Nellie Chapman | 14 February, 2019, 07:12

While Reddit is not now available in China, Tencent will have noticed the emergence of Bytedance - the company behind news aggregator Toutiao and short video platform Tik Tok - as a new rival on China's tech scene.

The TechCrunch Web site reported about the funding round last week, but that information was unconfirmed until now.

Social news website Reddit confirmed on Monday a new funding round that included a US$150 million (S$204 million) investment by Chinese technology behemoth Tencent, prompting concerns that "the front page of the Internet" might wind up censored.

Reddit said it planned to use the money for global expansion and to enhance its digital ad platform to better compete in a market where Facebook and Google now take in most of the revenue.

The announcement prompted criticism of Reddit for linking itself with a company from China, where the ruling Communist Party enforces extensive online censorship.

China has a strict internet censorship regime known as the Great Firewall and Reddit is among the sites it blocks.

Steve Huffman, the chief executive officer of Reddit, said Tencent's expertise in video games is part of what drew the two companies together.

Reddit was co-founded by Mr Alexis Ohanian, husband of tennis superstar Serena Williams. Reddit users swarmed several of the submissions, pushing them to the list of most popular posts.

The funding comes from what is called a "series D funding round" and sees China's Tencent adding a considerable amount of fortune to the $300 million, infact the Chinese conglomerate threw in $150 million.

Over the years it has become the fifth largest social website, ranking after Google, YouTube, Facebook and Amazon, with monthly active users of 330 million.

Reddit is also known for ask-me-anything sessions with well-known people such as Microsoft Corp cofounder Bill Gates and former USA president Barack Obama.