January 24, 2019 / 7:10 AM / 25 days ago

China deletes 'malicious' mobile apps

(This January 24 story corrects throughout to say that the “Fruit Ninja” game deleted by the CAC was not developed by iDreamSky Technology Holdings Ltd, nor distributed by Tencent.)

FILE PHOTO: A visitor plays a game on a smartphone at Tencent's exhibition booth at the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) 2015 in Beijing, China, April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s cyber watchdog said on Thursday it has deleted close to 8,000 “malicious” mobile apps, as regulators step up efforts to tighten control over the country’s internet.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a statement it had ordered telecom operators to shut down the services of 7,873 apps after finding they had overcharged and cheated users as well as stolen information.

It launched the campaign in September with other Chinese government ministries to target “malicious mobile apps that infringe on users’ rights”, the agency said.

Among the apps targeted by the agency was a Chinese version of “Fruit Ninja”, which caused economic losses to users by tricking them into signing up to unwanted fee-based services, the agency said.

There are three games named “Fruit Ninja” registered with China’s publishing regulator and it was unclear which one was deleted by the CAC.

A game with the same name was previously launched by iDreamSky (1119.HK) and distributed by Tencent in 2013. However it was later removed from all channels in 2016, according to iDreamSky.

Other games such as “Bathroom Goddess” and “Naughty Housemaid” that were developed and published by other firms committed “online hooligan activities” like information theft, spamming, and forced downloads.

China’s video game market, the world’s largest, has been under strict scrutiny since last year when authorities stopped approving new titles for almost a year. It recently resumed approvals but industry leaders Tencent and NetEase (NTES.O) have yet to receive any.

Political control of the internet has also tightened under President Xi Jinping, an effort that has accelerated since 2016 as the ruling Communist Party seeks to crack down on dissent on social media.

The CAC on Wednesday said it had deleted more than 7 million pieces of online information as well as 9,382 mobile apps, and criticized a news app run by Tencent for spreading “vulgar and low-brow information.

Reporting by Pei Li and Brenda Goh; Editing by Stephen Coates

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