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No, Tencent isn’t about to burn Reddit down

Ahoy, it’s doom and gloom for Reddit after the company welcomed investment from Chinese censorship overlord Tencent.
Well, not quite.
The reality is, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. In recruiting the company behind one of the internet’s largest and vibrant social networks — chat app WeChat — and countless blockbuster games, Reddit has pulled off a major coup and banked a huge amount of cash, both of which can help it grow to the next level.
But, right now, reports in the U.S. are suggesting otherwise. You might have seen a range of negative stories surface in the past week following Reddit’s latest round of investment — first reported by TechCrunch — which is led by Tencent and values the company at $3 billion.
Triggered by a Gizmodo story last week, fear is being stoked that a deal with the “Chinese censorship powerhouse” could lead Reddit awry and bankrupt its morality, well, whatever of that it has left. Reddit users, not ones to be slow on humor, have already plastered the site with content that would be forbidden in China, including Winnie the Pooh, the cartoon character often used to represent Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Gizmodo referred to Tencent as “one of the most important architects of the Great Firewall,” and that’s a refrain that has been repeated in countless other reports.
I get it, it‘s a delicious irony; one of the lawless parts of the internet combining forces with a company that aggressively monitors and censors its users. Plus, Reddit is already blocked in China.
But, unfortunately for Gizmodo, the fears are overblown and its descriptions of Tencent are at best naive and at worst deliberately misguided.

China’s censorship system


Tencent is no “architect” of China’s Great Firewall internet censorship program. It’s one of a number of companies which, from its success, finds itself a prominent target for the government with little room to wiggle out.
Tencent sits in an awkward position, for sure. It is the largest internet company in China — it became the first $500 billion firm in Asia last year — and that makes it a core part of the government’s ongoing campaign to control Chinese internet space.
After an unprecedented crackdown on the Twitter-like service Weibo in 2012, when the government closed down comments for three days, China’s censorship became more proactive rather than reactive. That approach leaves fewer traces, for one thing, and it allows Beijing to shift responsibility to the platforms themselves, which fear the repercussions of angering authorities.
That’s to say that today’s dynamic sees China’s top internet companies, including Tencent, instructed to monitor the content produced by their users and, where necessary, remove it.
No, Tencent isn’t about to burn Reddit down
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman delivers remarks on “Redesigning Reddit” during the third day of Web Summit in Altice Arena on November 08, 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal. Web Summit.
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