Splice News Trends: Zuck’s day of reckoning, Toutiao in hot water and Iran blocks Telegram

In today's Friday media round-up, The Splice Newsroom's Alan Soon looks at Facebook's Senate grilling, China's latest social media clampdowns and Singaporean media's latest woes

To sign up to his newsletter, from which this content is taken, visit the The Splice Newsroom.

Zuck was prepared. The Senators weren’t. Tuesday’s 5-hour Congressional hearings showed how little American politicians understand, let alone how to regulate them. The lawmakers, who came across as out-of-touch old men, had no points to make, apart from trying to score soundbites (compare this with Singapore’s grilling of Facebook a few weeks back).

They couldn’t figure out what ad tech is, how advertising works, or what data Facebook collects. Zuck seemed nervous but confident — he’s been coached by internal and external consultants on this. His team even reconfigured a conference room to look like a congressional hearing room. Never underestimate this guy’s ability to learn. Investors were encouraged by Zuck’s performance, and the lowered risk of regulation. They sent the stock up 4.5% at the end of the testimony on Tuesday.

Zuck bought himself some time with his performance at the hearings. But one question that’s still on the table: Should he resign? Wired explores the options for a Zuck-free Facebook and who could do the job.

Civil society groups in Myanmar didn’t like what Zuck said in the Vox interview last week. He claimed that FB successfully curbed hate speech through a system that scans Messenger chats. Six organszations in Myanmar are calling bullshit. This is their response.

…so he wrote to them directly a day later. Using his personal email address, Zuckerberg apologised for not acknowledging the role of activist groups in Myanmar in containing the harmful messages in Myanmar. They got back to him promptly with requests for details, as well as more investment into regional moderation services on Facebook.

Google Analytics announced new granular data retention controls. This allows users to decide how long their user and event data is held on Google’s servers. Anything older will be deleted. Good timing, GA.


China removed four news apps from several app stores, including the popular aggregator Toutiao. The authorities say they want to “regulate order in the broadcasting environment.”

China also ordered Toutiao to pull its joke-sharing “Neihan Duanzi” app. China’s media watchdog said the app “caused strong disgust amongst netizens”. It also told Toutiao to regulate similar content on its other sites.

China banned its online retailers from selling the Bible. “It sounds like the opposition force within the Chinese authorities who oppose the Vatican-China relations have their voice.”

Stores offering wifi to customers in the Chinese city of Qingdao have been ordered by police to replace their routers with government-approved ones. Failure to comply could result in a $18,600 fine. The approved routers are made by Beijing-based BHU, with “long-term close collaboration” with the country’s Public Security Department.

Singapore rejected New Naratif’s application to set up a business subsidiary, alleging it’s receiving external funding for political activities in the country. “Our position is that none of them can be allowed to fund Singaporean organisations or individuals participating in our domestic politics.” Co-founder Kristen Han says the allegations are “unfounded.”

Vietnam’s smartphone users have been asked to submit selfie photos of themselves to their telco providers. The government says this will help prevent the use of fake SIM cards. Users have two weeks to comply or will risk getting cut off. “Even registering ownership of a car or property doesn’t require photos,” complained one phone subscriber.

Iran blocked Telegram, the most widely used chat app in the country. The government is concerned about its use for political activity — but it also wants to get Iranians to use locally created apps, presumably because they’re easier to regulate.

Telegram: ‘Iran’s most-widely used social media app’


Singapore Press Holdings, the print monopoly that owns the Straits Times, reported a 25% drop in Q2 profit from the previous year. It’s still a very profitable company — $30 million in profit for the quarter is still a point of envy for many. But advertising revenues continue to slide — it’s down 9% for the quarter. The company talked up its digital subscription plans and integrated marketing platforms, which seems to be their only bet for shoring up revenues.

Straits Times launched a weekly newsletter covering highlights from Asia. Drops on Monday evenings. Long overdue. Comes at a time when SCMP is ramping up coverage of the region (and doing it far better). Subscribe here.

After a long transformation, Summit Media in the Philippines declared it’s finally a “digital-first” magazine publisher. It closed six print editions of Cosmopolitan, Preview, YES!. Top Gear, FHM, and Town & Country, shifting them online.

Raju Narisetti is leaving Gizmodo after reportedly being pushed out by parent company Univision. This could be the start of a wider restructuring in the business.


For the past decade, Bengaluru’s crowdfunded Citizen Matters has been getting its readers to report on civic issues. That’s right — crowdfunding for a whole decade. This is how it worksA Splice Original. 

A new project wants to fix Myanmar’s tone-deaf coverage of women by giving journalists access to a database of female experts. “It’s an automatic response for reporters; when they think about sources they’re thinking about men.” A Splice Original.


There’s a very compelling train of thought in here about an “unscaling” of the media business. Could new technologies like AI and advanced personalization make it viable for publishers to create an audience of one?


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