Fortnite, WeChat: China imposes control of giant Tencent’s apps

The Chinese government is stepping up surveillance on its tech giants, in line with an increasingly strict policy towards them in recent months. Tencent is one of the main targets.

China is pursuing its goal of tightly regulating large tech companies. The authorities now require the internet giant Tencent to submit any new mobile application or update to pre-release inspection, said a state media, in the midst of tightening regulations targeting the digital sector.

The new control imposed by the authorities, however, did not seem to worry the markets: the group’s action gained nearly 2% on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Thursday at midday.

The measure, announced Wednesday, November 24, comes at a time when Beijing is increasing pressure on the digital giants to reframe a dynamic sector of the economy, which has long been freed from several regulatory constraints.

“Temporary” measure

Tech giants have taken turns in recent months for competition and personal data offenses.

According to public television CCTV, Tencent has been the subject of nine offenses since the beginning of the year, the nature of which has not been specified.

As a result, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has taken “administrative action” against Tencent, including requiring that any new application or update be submitted for inspection, CCTV reported on Wednesday.

Tencent told AFP it would comply with the requirements.

The measure described as “temporary” has no consequences for the users of the group’s applications, which continue to function normally for the moment.

Tencent notably owns the popular WeChat application (messaging, online payment, social network) that almost all smartphone owners have on their terminal in China.

The noose tightens

Tencent is also a major player in video games worldwide, notably thanks to games Fortnite. The company was hit hard this summer by restrictions in China in this area. Recently, the very popular game announced its withdrawal from Chinese territory, in the face of too severe restrictions by the authorities against it.

In order to fight against addiction among young people, the authorities have imposed a restriction on online video games to 3 hours per week on those under the age of 18. Video games represent an important financial windfall in China for the digital giants.

An influential government newspaper had judged that video games had become “a mental opium”, while some Chinese children can spend entire days glued to their screens. The article had specifically pinned Tencent.

Victoria Beurnez with AFP

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