China’s Crackdown: Search Giant Baidu Starts Censoring Crypto Discussions on Its Forums

  • Baidu has recently started censoring cryptocurrency-related discussions on its online forums.
  • The search giant's move is in line with China's crackdown on cryptocurrencies.

Baidu, China’s leading search engine, has recently joined Alibaba and Tencent, distancing itself from cryptocurrencies amid China’s crackdown. Baidu has now moved to censor crypto discussions on its online forums.

According to local news outlet China Times, Baidu has recently shut down some of its most popular cryptocurrency-related forums, known as Post Bar services. Among the forums taken down are “Digital Currency Bar” and “Virtual Currency Bar.”

When searching for these forums online, users are greeted with a message that reads:

[This forum is temporarily closed] in accordance with relevant laws, regulations and policies.

Per the China Times, Baidu has “toughened its scrutiny over digital currency and will not allow sub-forums under this theme” based on the abovementioned reasons. Baidu’s forum business was launched back in 2003, and notably has over 300 monthly active users.

The search giant’s move comes shortly after Tencent and Alibaba revealed they were cracking down on crypto. Tencent itself revealed it will ban cryptocurrency trading on its popular WeChat app through measures that reportedly include real-time transaction monitoring and blocking transactions deemed suspicious.

Similarly, as CryptoGlobe covered, the largest payment processor in China, Alipay, banned accounts engaging in over-the-counter (OTC) bitcoin trading while warning users against “false propaganda.” How both Alipay and Tencent monitor crypto trading is currently unclear.

China’s Crackdown

China began its crackdown on cryptocurrencies in September of last year, when it banned domestic cryptocurrency exchanges and initial coin offerings (ICOs) from the country. Its move forced various companies to move abroad, and saw some close.

ICO projects have since then started launching in friendlier jurisdictions like Singapore. Many, according to reports, still focus on getting new customers in China through online platforms like Telegram and WeChat.

Censors in China have recently shut down numerous cryptocurrency-related accounts on WeChat, including some owned by popular media start-ups. Earlier this month, Beijing’s central Chaoyang district distributed a notice that banned office buildings, shopping malls, and hotels, from hosting events promoting cryptocurrencies.

According to some, authorities in the country are set to block access to 124 cryptocurrency-related websites in the country to stop Chinese citizens from trading crypto. Some users in the country are notably already bypassing the censorship enforced by the ‘Great Firewall of China’ through virtual private networks (VPNs).

Overstock CEO Sells Shares in His Company to Invest in Blockchain Projects

Patrick Byrne, the chief executive officer of Overstock.com (OSTK), has recently lashed out at investors who questioned his sale of 900,000 of his ‘founders shares’ in the company. Justifying his move, he revealed he needed the funds to invest in blockchain projects.

According to Business Insider, Byrne recently sent a letter to shareholders after the company’s stock prices plunged over 21% this week to their lowest since 2012, after he revealed he sold 500,000 of his shares earlier this week.

On Friday, the CEO revealed he sold an additional 400,000 shares, meaning he sold over 15% of his stake in the company. Although Overstock’s shares recovered on Friday, May 17, Byrne’s letter to shareholders was notable. In it, he wrote:

I simply had to supplement my nominal salary with stock sales in order to fulfill personal commitments to invest personally in blockchain projects such as Medici Land Governance, along with a need to meet charitable pledges.

The CEO added that he doesn’t plan on giving such an explanation again, justifying that he owes shareholders “staying within the law and not making decisions based on inside information, not explanations of my life and projects outside Overstock.”

He noted that the “unanticipated stir” caused by his sale was unexpected, and added “I had no idea that shareholders would demand explanations of why and how I might want to use my cash derived from my labor and my property to pursue my ends in life.”

Byrne is notably Overstock’s largest shareholder, and noted he told investors a year ago he would be making “significant sales” to fund different projects, including those related to blockchain technologies and, presumably, cryptocurrencies.

In fact, the libertarian sold 775,000 of his shares in September of last year, before this week’s sale. The stock’s price has fallen roughly 90% from its record high in January of 2018, when Overstock was benefitting from its cryptocurrency ventures and accompanying the cryptocurrency market’s performance.

In November of last year, Byrne revealed he had plans to sell Overstock’s retail business and go “all-in” on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. The CEO’s plan would see the company focus on its fully-owned subsidiary Medici Ventures, which has been invested in blockchain-related startups, after selling its retail business.

Overstock's price performance over the last two yearsSource: Yahoo Finance

Byrne has notably been battling short sellers targeting Overstock, as the firm competes with the likes of eBay and Amazon. Financial analytics firm S3 Partners has estimated short bets against it stand at $157 million, or 50% of its float. This makes it more targeted by short sellers than 99% of companies in the U.S.

Despite the company’s performance on exchanges, Overstock has since launched its tZERO security trading platform, and was one of the first companies to pay a “portion” of its taxes using bitcoin in Ohio.