Users Flood Reddit With China Censorship Memes, Balk at $150 Million Investment From Tencent


by Oiwan Lam, Activist Post:

If you search “China” on Reddit this week, you’ll find a deluge of political memes — from the Tiananmen Square “Tank Man” photo to Winnie the Pooh to the Terminator.

These are all in protest of Reddit’s recent decision to let Chinese tech giant Tencent invest $150 million into the company.

The top item in a “China” search on Reddit is Tank Man, a news photo taken at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 when the Chinese military unleashed a violent, fatal crackdown on peaceful protesters. Such images are nearly impossible to find online in China.

Screen capture of “Tank Man” post by @FreeSpeechWarrior on Reddit. Original photo by Jeff Widener, Associated Press. Reproduced under Fair Use.

Reddit user Free Speech Warrior explained why he posted the photo on Reddit:

Given that reddit just took a $150 million investment from a Chinese censorship powerhouse, I thought it would be nice to post this picture of “Tank Man” at Tiananmen Square before our new glorious overlords decide we cannot post it anymore.

In its latest funding round, Reddit garnered a total of $300 million in investments, half from Tencent and half from the company’s former investors, including Sequoia, Fidelity, Tacit and Snoop Dogg.

The platform has 330 million active users with 14 billion screenviews per month, but it is inaccessible in China due to the country’s robust Internet censorship regime. All major foreign social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked by China’s so-called Great Firewall.

Tencent is behind the country’s most popular social media app, WeChat, and online game League of Legends. The corporation strictly abides by the Chinese law in domestic censorship measures and in recent years has attempted to extend its mobile apps to the international market.

While Chinese companies regularly invest in US media companies, this makes for an unusual match.

Although there is no indication that Tencent would have the power to promote Chinese-style censorship on Reddit, the idea of Reddit and Tencent having any sort of business relationship still feels like a paradox. Tencent is a major enforcer of China’s massive social media censorship regime, while on Reddit, almost all ideas and speech are welcome (until you get shadowbanned – Ed.). And right now, a whole lot of those ideas are coming from Reddit users who fear that the investment will lead to more censorship on the platform.

The Tank Man post on Reddit was viewed more than 203,000 times and prompted many users to post related political messages.

In one comment thread, @SpunTheOne invited people to share tricks for getting around China’s Great Firewall. And another user reminded people of the security risks of using made-in-China computer devices:

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