Tencent investment in Reddit sparks censorship worry

Cornelia Mascio
Febbraio 12, 2019

TechCrunch reported last week that Tencent will invest US$150 million in an upcoming funding round for Reddit - the self-described "front page of the internet".

San Francisco-based Reddit raised a total of $300 million at a $3 billion valuation, with investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Fidelity, Sequoia and Tencent, the company's CEO told CNBC. The push appears to be achieving results, with the company's ad revenue reportedly exceeding $100 million for the first time past year.

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

Steve Huffman, the chief executive officer of Reddit, said Tencent's expertise in video games is part of what drew the two companies together.

News of Tencent buying into the popular social news website, 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, known as the "Front Page of the Internet", has 330 million active users but still cannot be accessed in China.

"Given that reddit just took a $150 million investment from a Chinese censorship powerhouse, I thought it would be nice to post this picture of "Tank Man" at Tienanmen [sic] Square before our new glorious overlords decide we can not post it anymore", wrote the user "FreeSpeechWarrior".

"While we're posting images that piss China off, don't forget that Xi Jinping looks like Winnie the Pooh!" wrote user "lambdaknight".

Reddit was co-founded by Alexis Ohanian, husband of tennis superstar Serena Williams. Reddit is ranked among the most visited U.S. websites, and has more than 138,000 "communities" for discussions on various topics.

Reddit is also known for ask-me-anything (AMA) sessions with well-known people such as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former USA president Barack Obama.

Tencent, which owns 15% of Snap Inc. and 40% of Fortnite creator Epic Games, has put $150 million into Reddit.

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