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Beijing amends and warns major technology groups over explicit content

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The Beijing cyber watchdog has tampered with and warned some of China’s largest technology groups, including Alibaba and Tencent, of making explicit material and exploiting children on their platforms.

China’s cyber administration said in a statement that it responded to the proliferation of obscene images and videos including sexual content “linked to children”.

It did not specify how many groups had been fined, but on Wednesday the CAC convened leaders of Alibaba trade group’s Taobao platform, Internet giant Qenc’s Qenc messaging app and China’s largest social media platform Weibo of China, and also the short video company Kuaishou and popular fashion platform Xiaohongshu.

The move by the regulator marked the latest turmoil for China’s technology companies. The sector has been under intense scrutiny amid significant changes in Chinese data and in antitrust surveillance laws and regulations.

The companies said Wednesday that children under the age of 16 were “strictly forbidden” from appearing in live video streams. They were also said to “clean up” the animated videos that “exposed characters, erotic and vulgar plots, bloody horror scenes and other dangerous behaviors.”

The CAC has warned that it will take a “zero tolerance” approach and increase penalties and sanctions for violations.

None of the groups was immediately available to comment on the regulator’s actions.

Shares traded in Hong Kong by Tencent, Alibaba and Kuaishou fell after the announcement.

The CAC’s moves on explicit content follow growing public concern and call from some corners of the Chinese state media to address the online exploitation of young people.

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The People’s Journal, the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, criticized online platforms in March for what it said was a lack of content supervision, which opened the door to “pornographic and violent” live broadcasts. “Platforms make a lot of money, but young people suffer,” he said.

However, experts have noted that, despite years of campaigns to nominally remove explicit content on China’s internet, such material has not been a priority for Beijing’s censors.

In his book China’s Digital Nationalism, Academician Florian Schneider argued that it was “highly unlikely” that the abundance of explicit content was “an oversight” given “the degree of sophistication with which China’s censors monitor the web.”

“Considering the staggering amounts of revenue that web advertising generates in digital China, and in particular the way that … the porn industry is often at the forefront of digital commerce, it seems plausible that censors are taking a look. to the ways in which discourse becomes sexualized and radicalized for commercial consumption, ”wrote Schneider, a professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

According to McKinsey, since the outbreak of China’s coronavirus and the blockade last year the population has become “even more digital” from an already high base. Prior to the pandemic, China’s 855m digital consumers spent an average of six hours a day on their phones, twice as long as those in the United States, the consultancy found.

In April, Chinese officials convened a meeting representing representatives of several of the country’s largest fintech companies and told them to “rectify” all the problems on their platforms.

Criticism from Jack Ma of Alibaba to Chinese banking regulators last year sparked a series of crackdowns on both the billionaire and his business empire. Earlier this month, the CAC caused Didi Chuxing’s share price to fall days after its initial $ 4.4 billion public offering in the United States when it banned the ride-signing application of new users.

More information from Nian Liu in Beijing


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