Wed, Feb 13, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Tencent stake in Reddit sparks censorship fears

‘WELCOME OUR LEADER’:Reddit users reacted to news of Tencent’s investment in the platform by posting pictures of Winnie the Pooh, which is banned in China’s Web

AFP, SAN FRANCISCO

Reddit Inc on Monday confirmed a new funding round that included a US$150 million investment by Chinese technology behemoth Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊), prompting concerns that “the front page of the Internet” might wind up censored.

San Francisco-based Reddit raised a total of US$300 million at a US$3 billion valuation, with investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Fidelity Investments, Sequoia Capital and Tencent, chief executive Steve Huffman told CNBC.

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

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

“We are the only company at our scale that is still a private company, so we have had a lot of investor attention in the last year,” Huffman told CNBC.

News of Tencent buying into the popular social news Web site, which is banned in China, prompted concerns by some users that the platform could be vulnerable to the kind of online censorship that takes place in that country.

Reddit users protested, some posting pictures known to be banned in China, such as cartoon character Winnie the Pooh.

A “Pooh” picture voted to near the top of the Reddit home page bore the caption: “Since Reddit took a US$150 million investment from Chinese Censorship company Tencent, please welcome our leader [Chinese] President Xi [Jinjing (習近平)].”

Images of the storybook bear were reportedly banned online in China after bloggers used them to represent Xi in posts.

Reddit was cofounded by Alexis Ohanian, husband of tennis superstar Serena Williams.

It is ranked among the most visited US Web sites, and has more than 138,000 “communities” for discussions on various topics.

The site boasts that, on average, more than 330 million people use it each month, contending that half of those users range in age from 18 to 24.

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

Tencent has invested in a broad array of companies, including Tesla Inc, Snapchat-parent Snap Inc and Epic Games Inc — the maker of popular video game Fortnite.

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