Chinese proposal aims to clean up live-streaming in the name of underage internet users

Society & Culture

The All-China Youth Federation (ACYF), a government-backed organization affiliated with the Communist Youth League of China, has introduced a proposal (in Chinese) to limit minors’ access to online games while protecting their identities online. The initiative hones in on the live-streaming industry, which has exploded in China in recent years.

According to ACYF, the exponential growth of the Chinese live-streaming industry has raised several concerns, such as a rampant spread of explicit content that invites vulgarity in comment sections, as well as an increasingly toxic online environment where minors may be tempted to imitate indecent actions. According to ACYF, the ease of entry into the live-streaming industry is at the root of the problem.

In addition, ACYF stressed that the move serves as a necessary protection of children and teens, who are vulnerable to cyberattacks and may be tricked into giving away their private information, such as name, school, and home address. They may also be present in other live streamers’ videos without their knowledge. Moreover, a number of news outlets have published stories of minors using their parents’ credit cards to give ultra-generous tips to live-streamers. Refunds cannot be obtained when families fail to provide adequate proof of underage misconduct.

In an attempt to better regulate the industry, the organization has suggested the following solutions:

  • Enact the “Protect Underage Internet Users” article as soon as possible; monitor and punish accordingly.
  • Consider implementing clear restrictions to minors becoming live streamers.
  • Explicitly define the conditions of entering live-streaming platforms; supervise existing live streamers more closely.
  • Expedite methods for internet users to report misconducts.

Regarding the technological process of registration on live-streaming platforms, the Youth Federation further requests that underage users should specify their reasons for joining when creating accounts. ACYF also encourages live-stream platforms to open “parent control mode,” and for platforms to utilize advanced technology to verify users’ identities when charging money.

This suggested regulation has received widespread and nearly unanimous support from online communities. The level of support range from banning underage live streamers to banning underage viewers altogether. Online commenters also noted the pathological nature of live-streaming’s effects on society, arguing that young people who participate in this superficial and effortless activity are wasting their time at the expense of their education and good morals. Even those who opposed the regulations suggested that restrictions should target video content, just not the age of users.

Though certain mobile video platforms such as Kuaishou 快手, TikTok 抖音, and Bilibili 哔哩哔哩 have implemented procedures to protect underage users, the government has not prescribed any laws, but handles malpractice on a case-by-case basis.