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Communism never looked so good: China cracks down on pop-up ads

Developers accused of ignoring regulations and adding adware where it's not allowed

China has cracked down on big tech again, this time telling some of its biggest players to get rid of pop-up ads in apps.

A Wednesday edict from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology points out that it strongly suggested that pop-ups should disappear way back in 2017, and has revisited the subject several times during 2021 with reviews of popular apps.

The latest notice states the Ministry's ongoing app inspection program has found 14 apps getting in users' faces with inappropriate pop-ups, and suggests that developers know their obligations but have chosen to re-code their wares to include ads.

The Ministry has therefore named and shamed offenders – with Tencent's micro-blogging service at the top of the list. Readers may remember that China recently ordered Tencent to stop signing up customers to its WeChat service and prevented a merger of two of its gaming businesses.

The document also lists the app stores that distribute the offending apps – naming Vivo, OPPO and Huawei as hosts.

All concerned have been given until August 3rd to pop the pop-ups. Missing the deadline will see the Ministry step in to do what internet translation services describe as "carry out relevant disposal work". We think that means offending apps will be banned.

China's conducted numerous crackdowns on its web giants and online behaviour in recent months, for reasons including cleaning up content and ensuring citizen data has less chance of leaking offshore. The combined effect of those efforts may have brought web giants closer to the party line, but they've also put huge dents in the market value of Chinese web companies. The likes of ride-sharing service DiDi have seen their share price tumble, while more established players like Tencent and Alibaba have fallen markedly over the last month.

Beijing doesn't necessarily mind that, because when scrip of Chinese companies listed on foreign bourses falls it mostly hurts foreign investors. ®

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