Newsstand in Beijing. Photo by Ernie via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
This post was written by Catherine Lai and originally published on Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) on January 4, 2018. The version below is published on Global Voices under a partnership agreement.
China's top news aggregation app, Jinri Toutiao, plans to hire 2,000 new employees to monitor content on its platform, after the country's internet regulator cracked down on its content.
In the hiring process, the company will give priority to members of the Communist Party.
Jinri Toutiao, which means Today’s Headlines, is a customized RSS feed reader that provides content to readers based on their interests, using data and recommendation algorithms. Founded in 2012, the company CEO Zhang Yiming boasted at the 2016 World Internet Forum that its news application had 600 million registered users and that 140 million active users spend 76 minutes on the application each day.
While the application uses artificial intelligence to customized news feeds for readers, the technology is still subject to state censorship. Last week, the country’s top internet regulator accused the news app of spreading pornographic content.
The Cyberspace Administration said in a notice that Toutiao had illegally distributed news content without having obtained qualifications to do so from the authorities. It added that it was also concerned about the issue of “clickbait” on the app.
The regulator’s order led to Toutiao suspending updates for six of its sections for 24 hours.
Mainland Chinese media outlet The Paper reported on 3 January that Toutiao was recruiting 2,000 content reviewers.
According to a job advertisement, Toutiao requires staff to examine around 1,000 items per day for illegal content and is seeking candidates who are passionate about news, care about current events, and have good “political sensitivity and judgement.” The position requires applicants to hold undergraduate degrees or above, and said Communist Party members would be given priority.
The company already employs over 4,000 staff members whose primary purpose is to review content. The number of content reviewers will reach 10,000 soon, said Jinri Toutiao's chief editors, making theirs the largest such team in the country.
Following the regulator’s order last week, the app also closed its “society” channel of the app and replaced it with one entitled “new era.” This has become one of the default sections in the app.
Why the name change? During the 19th National Chinese Communist Party Congress, Chinese President Xi Jinping's thoughts were added to the party constitution under the section “Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” Since then, “new era” has become a common political term used to refer to Xi's leadership.