Reddit has received a $150 million investment from Tencent, the Chinese tech giant behind WeChat and League of Legends, sparking fears of censorship from Reddit users. The investment was first rumored last week, and led to Reddit users posting photos and memes banned in China in protest of Tencent’s involvement.
The protests have centered around two images in particular: Winnie the Pooh, whose likeness is largely banned because users have mocked its resemblance to President Xi Jinping, and images of the iconic Tank Man from the Tiananmen Square massacre. Both are censored in China because of state rules aimed at keeping internet users from opposing the government. One Reddit user quipped, “I thought it would be nice to post this picture of “Tank Man” at Tienanmen Square before our new glorious overlords decide we cannot post it anymore.”
Reddit confirmed the investment to The Verge, but declined further comment.
While China has censored content outside of its borders before, it’s usually with Chinese native apps that are tied to mainland accounts. WeChat users in America can still be censored if their accounts are connected to mainland IDs. Users of Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, who log onto their Chinese accounts from outside the country, have seen their posts taken down. In one instance, a short video of a foreigner reading from Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book was immediately rejected from the platform.
But so far, other US companies with Chinese investment haven’t been subject to the country’s censorship. Spotify, Epic Games, and Snap have all received investments from Tencent, and none have seen the censorship that Reddit users fear.
Meanwhile, China continues to outright block US-based services it wishes to censor, such as Twitch, Google, and Facebook. Reddit has been blocked in China since August.
Tencent joins the ranks of older Reddit investors like Snoop Dogg and Sequoia in helping the company reel in $300 million in additional funding, Reddit confirmed today.