Defiant images of Winnie the Pooh have sprung up across community news site Reddit as users hit back at a major investment by Chinese tech giant Tencent.
Reddit confirmed today that the Chinese conglomerate has contributed a $150m (£116m) investment in the website, which describes itself as the ‘front page of the internet’, as part of a wider $300m round.
The remainder of the funding was from existing investors Sequoia, Fidelity, Andreessen Horowitz, Tacit, VY and hip hop mogul Snoop Dogg. The platform is now valued at $3bn, up from $1.8bn at its last fundraise in 2017.
The move by Tencent, which was first reported by Tech Crunch, has prompted an outcry among users who believe it could lead to censorship.
Reddit users fear the investment would lead to a crackdown on content posted on the website, which supporters say is a bastion of free speech. Reddit is already blocked behind China’s so-called Great Firewall.
Members of the online community have expressed their anger by posting images of Winnie the Pooh. Chinese censors have banned the fictional teddy bear after bloggers compared it to President Xi Jinping.
Images of the similarly-prohibited Tiananmen Square protest have also been circulated in reference to the notorious 1989 military crackdown in Beijing.
The website, which is backed by publisher Conde Nast, has previously been mired in controversy over its role in promoting hate speech.
Last year the site banned a group dedicated to so-called involuntary celibacy amid concerns it had become a hotbed of misogynistic abuse and calls to violence.
Despite a crackdown on hate speech, the website still hosts a number of controversial communities, known as subreddits.
Shares in Tencent dropped sharply last year after Chinese authorities blocked the firm from making money from its mobile games, including hit online game Fortnite. But shares in the firm have begun to climb back after China lifted the video game ban in January.
Tencent also owns Chinese messaging app Wechat, whose users are subject to censorship if they express dissent towards the government.