Shanghai local police have arrested two employees of Chinese dating app Soul for allegedly posting pornography and “harmful remarks and pictures” on a competitor’s app, causing it to be suspended from China’s app stores for near four months, local media outlet 21 Caijing reported.
Last July, one Soul employee named Li, from product operation and content moderation, discovered that another dating app, Uki, had some similar functions as Soul. According to the 21 Caijing report, he told another employee, Fan, to find and collect illegal content on Uki and report it.
In October, Fan allegedly registered two accounts on Uki and posted pornography, following Li’s instructions. Although Uki quickly deleted the content, Fan managed to get screenshots and reported the app to regulators. As a result, the app was ordered taken down from major app stores in November. Uki’s investigation showed that the two accounts shared the same IP address and called the police soon afterwards.
On February 19, the Shanghai authorities issued an arrest warrant following an investigation, saying that the suspects maliciously harmed its competitor and damaged the victim’s reputation. Soul has yet to issue an official statement regarding this matter. It’s unclear what kind of punishment the employees will face if found guilty.
Uki has been available again on app stores since February 28. Sun Mingjun, the founder of Uki, said in an interview with local media outlet Jiemian, that the app suffered losses of users, income, and reputation.
Shanghai-based Soul closed its Series C round in 2018, raising USD 60 million, according to Crunchbase. Its co-founder, Zhang Lu, told 36Kr that it has millions of daily active users. Uki, launched in 2018, had 25 million users as of the end of 2019. According to third-party research institution App Annie, the downloads of dating apps in China’s Apple Store grew by nearly 40% to 50 million, from 2017 to 2019.