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Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings has taken another step to tighten control and management of content posted on its messaging and social media app WeChat by cutting back the number of official accounts allowed for producers amid a sustained government crackdown on the type of materials that appear online.

“To create a green and orderly content ecosystem”, WeChat reduced the maximum number of accounts for companies to two from five previously, and to one account for individuals from two, according to an announcement from Tencent on Friday. Companies can still submit requests to register more accounts than the new limits to both the social media platform and the government’s content watchdog.

With 1.08 billion monthly active users, WeChat is the most popular social-media platform in China. The official accounts operate like homepages or blogs, with individuals and companies able to set up these pages to distribute content and add followers. WeChat has over 20 million official accounts on its platform.

The move coincides with an industry-wide clampdown on content by Beijing, which from late October shut down 9,800 social media accounts in three weeks on platforms including WeChat, microblogging site Weibo, search engine Baidu, news aggregator Jinri Toutiao and others.

The Cyberspace Administration of China said last week that tightened management of internet content producers would be a “new norm” for the internet watchdog. The authority has summoned operators of 10 content platforms, including Tencent, to conduct clean-ups on their own services to remove vulgar content, rumours and fake accounts.

The authorities last month also ordered Tencent to clean up pornographic content on WeChat, and consequently 1,706 WeChat official accounts were either blocked or closed.

WeChat’s official accounts were a “substantial contributor” to Tencent’s fast-growing social advertising revenue in the third quarters, while its social platform WeChat Moments was the “single largest contributor”, Tencent’s chief strategy officer James Mitchell said last week in a conference call with analysts, without giving further details.

Advertising revenue, which accounted for one fifth of total revenue in the past quarter, was up 47 per cent to 16.2 billion yuan (US$2.33 billion) driven by ads on WeChat’s Moments.

Some analysts believe the impact of the ongoing crackdown will have minimal effect on Tencent’s advertising business.

“It will not have much influence on the traffic to the platform or the appetite of advertisers,” said Norman Hui, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Zhongtai International Securities. “Tencent has diversified advertising revenue, mostly driven by its Moments platform, which is not particularly impacted by these clean-up campaigns.”

– Iris Deng (SCMP), 19 Nov 2918

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