Two of China's leading video-sharing portals have temporarily removed most of the overseas TV programs and movies from their websites, as part of an inspection over online video content.
Bilibili, a popular Youtube-style video broadcasting portal known for its bullet screen system where real-time comments from users could be presented onto a video for others to see, pulled almost all of the TV shows and movies made in foreign countries including the United States, Britain and Thailand from its online platform on Wednesday.
Fearless, a hit British crime thriller TV series as well as My Dear Loser: Edge of 17, one of the most-viewed Thai dramas on the website were among the multiple foreign TV shows removed.
The popular TV series, along with many overseas hits were also taken off AcFun, another video-sharing website known by Chinese anime fans as the "A site."
Amid overwhelming speculations as to whether the removal was in a bid to address the copyright issues of the introduced programs as part of the country's effort to combat piracy, Bilibili said it was carried out to review whether content of the transmitted videos compiled with related rules and regulations.
"During the inspection, part of the videos would be shut down," read an official statement released Thursday by the website on its Weibo account, which also offered an apology to its users for the inconvenience during the inspection.
It further noted programs that conform to regulations will be made available again following the content censoring move.
The unexpected inspection has incurred huge backlash online with thousands of netizens flooding to China's Twitter-like Weibo to express outrage and frustration over the sudden disappearance of their favorite foreign TV shows.
"All of the foreign movies that I've stored up for years were removed," commented @wutiwujie, extending nostalgia to his collections.
"I felt I lost half of the world as the variety shows I like are now all unavailable on AcFun," another netizen @boom! acclaimed in sentiments, adding many users of the two websites around her have shared the same feeling.
Last month, Sina Weibo, Chinese leading micro-blogging site with more than 340 million monthly active users shut down its uploading access of video clips that are over 15 minutes in length during an online audio-visual service crackdown.
The move came after China's TV and film watchdog, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) asked three major web portals, including Weibo, the news site Ifeng.com, and AcFun to halt their multi-media streaming service for publicizing "many politically-related programs that do not conform with state rules and social commentary programs that present negative remarks and opinions."
The watchdog also called on the websites to acquire certificates of video publication in an attempt to forge a "clearer cyberspace".