China’s leading investment information platform Xueqiu, which is backed by Alibaba’s financial affiliate Ant Financial, has been asked to shut down its online comment section for seven days from April 13.
Starting off as a news and information service in 2010, Xueqiu has gradually shifted its focus to become an online investor community.
The website has a homepage for each stock, and users can see all discussions and analyses by the community by just keying in the stock code. They can also join the discussions if they like.
Meanwhile, users are able to set up their own homepage on the platform to show their holdings and post commentaries.
With an active user base of 20 million people, Xueqiu is China’s most popular social media platform for stock investors.
Backed by such a large investor base, Xueqiu has gradually expanded into new territories in recent years.
For one, it has teamed up with Interactive Brokers from the United States to set up Snowball Securities, which allows users to directly trade securities on Snowball’s website.
Famed investors are also able to launch their own funds on the platform and invite subscribers.
Quite a few new-generation, internet-based fund managers have successfully built their careers on the platform.
While 20 million active users may not sound a lot compared with other social media platforms, since most of them are investors, the value of such a user base can be quite considerable.
Xueqiu raised US$120 million from a series D funding round in June last year. Its investors include Ant Financial, Sequoia Capital and Morningside Venture Capital.
But the platform is said to be overly lax in monitoring comments on its forum. This may have something to do with the background of its founder, Fang Sanwen.
A graduate of Beijing University, Fang started his career as a journalist with Southern Weekly, one of China’s most outspoken publications.
During his watch, Xueqiu adopted a relatively liberal attitude with regard to opinions expressed by its users. For example, there are many posts complaining about China’s stagnant reform in recent months.
The ban on Xueqiu is seen as part of Beijing’s increasingly stringent online censorship campaign.
Others argue that the move might be connected to the upcoming 30th anniversary of the June 4th incident.
No matter what, as China’s economy is going to be more open as a result of the country’s trade talks with the United States, that seems to be at odds with Beijing’s tightening grip over internet content, which may eventually hamper economic progress.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 12
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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