Reddit has raised a $300 million investment round led by $150 million cash injection from the Chinese tech titan Tencent. Meanwhile, the San Francisco-based social media site, valued at $3 billion and ranked as the sixth most popular website in the United States, is still banned in China.
In addition to Tencent, Reddit also raised $150 million from a group of other investors that includes Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia, Fidelity, and Snoop Dogg, reports Reuters.
The news triggered backlash from Reddit users who posted content that is banned by China’s government onto the U.S.-based site. Thousands of viewers saw pictures of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy rally, a protest and subsequent government crackdown that’s famously banned inside China. Other protest posts included pro-Taiwan messages and criticism of Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Many redditors also posted Winnie the Pooh, an unlikely but prominent recent victim of Chinese censorship. Critics of Xi said the head of China’s Communist Party looked like the cartoon bear when he was in negotiations with U.S. President Barack Obama. The comparison birthed thousands of memes and eventually led to an outright national ban.
Tencent is an active and aggressive global investor with over 600 such deals in a diverse set of companies around the world including a handful of American firms that are also banned in China. But Reddit and Tencent are strange bedfellows due to Reddit’s historic reference to freedom of speech as core to its mission while Tencent is one of the most important architects of the Great Firewall of China, the most sophisticated censorship regime in history.