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Chinese social media platform Douban suspends reply function while regulators scrutinize fan culture

Written by Mengyuan Ge Published on     2 mins read

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Online groups that share celebrity news and gossip are redefining their content direction.

Chinese forum and ratings platform Douban has suspended its reply function since Monday evening. The company said the suspension is due to “technical reasons” and will last until September 13.

Douban is popular with fanquan, or fan groups, which can consist of millions of members who are avid supporters of celebrities. The disabled reply function has paralyzed communications within these groups, coinciding with the Chinese government’s curbs on the influence of web and entertainment idols who command the loyalty of their fans.

Douban is also known for its reviews section, where users participate in discussions and review books, films, TV shows, and other forms of media. It hosts all types of interest groups, including those that focus on Chinese celebrities.

“For technical reasons, Douban temporarily shut down the reply function for seven days,” Douban told The Beijing News when it was approached by the media outlet.

The suspension has become a popular discussion topic in other online environments. The topic of “Douban suspends replies” has become a frequently searched phrase on Weibo since Douban’s announcement. As of Wednesday morning, the topic has been viewed more than 93 million times.

KrASIA noticed that many Douban users were considering moving to other social media platforms, such as sports forum Hupu and Reddit-like Baidu Tieba.

The Cyberspace Administration of China issued a notice on August 27 to say it will tighten scrutiny on the “chaotic fan culture” that is perpetuated online.

Soon after, Douban released a statement in which the company pledged to levy heavier penalties on users that conducted unlawful and irrational behaviors. This includes utilizing click farming to raise the ranks of celebrities on popularity leaderboards, posting disparaging comments, and spreading malicious gossip.

The platform said that it may suspend user accounts that engage in these activities, or even dismantle entire online groups if members violate rules.

Shortly after Douban’s statement, admins of a number of fan groups on the platform had to rename their communities to indicate a change in attitude toward celebrity culture and fandoms. Some groups said they would no longer accept posts about celebrity gossip.

Likewise, major social media platforms, video streaming websites, and music streaming apps have taken steps to comply with the CAC’s guidelines.

Read this: China’s cyberspace watchdog is shaking US capital markets

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