Tencent invests $150m in Reddit sparking free speech protests across the site

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Reddit Inc on Monday confirmed a new funding round that included a US$150 million investment by Chinese technology behemoth Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊), prompting concerns that "the front page of the Internet" might wind up censored.

Founded in 2005 by two University of Virginia students, Reddit has continued to attract a loyal user base despite its relatively simple format, where users are invited to discuss just about any topic on more than 150,000 "sub-Reddit" forums.

Reddit has raised a new $300 million round of funding from investors including Tencent, Sequoia, Fidelity and Andreessen Horowitz among others.

Reddit users protested, some posting pictures known to be banned in China, such as cartoon character "Winnie the Pooh". Last week reports said that Tencent would be investing $150m (£115m) into the platform. The Reddit platform allows users to share links on any conceivable subject, which are then up-or down-voted, meaning the most popular content surfaces to the top and is more prominent. The government's internet censorship regime uses a series of technical measures to block foreign platforms and controversial content.

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Tencent operates online games and popular WeChat social media service. The push appears to be achieving results, with the company's ad revenue reportedly exceeding $100 million for the first time past year. Chinese authorities also blocked references to the date of Tiananmen Square Massacre such as "4 June" and "six four".

Reddit Chief Executive Officer Steve Huffman told CNBC today that "one of the things that's been very important to us is that we can now assure advertisers that you are going to have a positive experience on Reddit and potentially even a new experience, a new way of connecting with customers".

Images of the storybook bear were reportedly banned online in China after bloggers used them to represent President Xi Jinping in posts.

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