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China Removes Duolingo From App Stores, Hitting U.S. EdTech

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(Bloomberg) -- Duolingo Inc., a Pittsburgh company that makes a popular language-learning app, was removed from some app stores in China, signaling the government’s crackdown on for-profit education may be extending beyond the country’s shores.

“We are working to address the issue and are hopeful that the app will be reinstated in the near term,” the company said in an emailed statement. “In the meanwhile, existing users in China can continue to use the app as they always do.”

Unverified reports of the app’s removal spread on social media Thursday, briefly sending Duolingo’s stock dipping. It ended the day with a gain of about 3%.

It’s not clear whether the removal was related to China’s recent crackdown on educational practices. In late July, Beijing authorities announced a broad set of reforms for private education companies, seeking to decrease workloads for students and overhaul a sector it said had been “hijacked by capital.”

In addition to forcing such companies to become non-profits, the regulations banned the teaching of foreign curriculums, tightened scrutiny of imported textbooks and forbid the hiring of foreign teachers outside of China.

China’s broad campaign to rein in technology companies has thus far focused primarily on homegrown giants like Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. But the unprecedented campaign is creating ripple effects globally, including by restricting the flow of Chinese IPOs to the U.S.

Most recently, fears that Beijing will next set its sights on the gaming sector walloped shares in Tencent and global partners, including Nintendo Co. and Nexon Co. Beijing has a history of hampering foreign firms, imposing its censorship requirements on Apple Inc., while mandating cloud services like Amazon.com Inc.’s work only through a Chinese partner.

(Updates with China regulatory actions in education sector)

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