CHONGQING -- The Chinese government on Monday ordered four smartphone news apps to temporarily stop allowing new downloads.
The move has been interpreted as an attempt to tighten control over free speech in the online arena as apps become increasingly popular and diverse.
The four services are Jinri Toutiao, which has more than 200 million active users, Phoenix News, NetEase News and Tiantian News.
Tiantian News was banned for three weeks, the longest of the four, after having allegedly made more than 10,000 improper posts. About 5,000 accounts were shut down.
The other three apps were said to have carried content such as pornography. Before issuing the ban, the State Administration of Radio and Television accused Jinri Toutiao of "broadcasting content that disturbs social morality," in a statement on its official website. It demanded the app to delete content that was "rude, violent, sexual, or harmful."
The New York Times app was deleted from Apple's app store in late 2016, while question-and-answer site Zhihu, where users post on topics such as politics, was banned for a week in March.
Akihide Anzai and Akane Okutsu contributed to this story