Chinese Censors Have New Target: Celebrity News

BEIJING — Whether read openly and voraciously or behind closed doors, celebrity gossip plays an integral role in the entertainment world, connecting stars and the big businesses that back them to an audience eager for the juiciest of details.

But to some officials in China, the bloggers that report those tidbits play another role: a threat to public order.

A large number of Chinese “celebrity news” blogs have disappeared in recent days after coming under the scrutiny of China’s cyberspace regulators. Their absence comes amid a broader tightening of online and media controls ahead of a once-in-every-five-years meeting of top Communist Party leaders this year, at which party officials will consider major decisions about who will lead the country in the coming years.

At a meeting on Wednesday with representatives from China’s leading internet companies, officials from the Beijing bureau of the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top online regulator, called on the companies to “actively promote socialist core values” and create a “healthy, uplifting environment for mainstream opinion” by combating vulgar and sensationalist coverage of celebrity scandals and lifestyles.

Since that meeting, reported by the state broadcaster China Central Television, major Chinese internet companies like Tencent and Baidu and the news aggregation platform Jinri Toutiao have shut down more than 80 popular entertainment-related public accounts, according to state news outlets. Many were on Tencent’s WeChat social-media service, which is widely used in China and is increasingly a source of news and information.

Many of the closed blogs and accounts were making a tidy profit from advertising revenue, and some recently turned to venture capital investors as a route to growth. Zhuo Wei, known as China’s No. 1 paparazzo, had more than seven million followers for his coverage of celebrities like the singer Faye Wong and the Chinese actress Bai Baihe. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

At least one of the closed accounts was affiliated with a global brand. The entertainment-related WeChat account of the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar was shut down, although its account on Weibo, another social-media service, and its general WeChat account appeared to have survived. A…

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