China wants to control how its famous streamers act and dress

Zeng, who asked to use her last name to avoid being recognized, thought it was ridiculous. “I don’t think she did anything unreasonable or immoral by today’s standards. On the contrary, I think she is doing something that can help everyone,” she says. Eventually, in June, Longfei’s account was reinstated.

Live streaming became popular in China in 2016 and has since become one of the favorite ways to spend free time in the country. 635 million viewers. The best streamers control the audience in e-commerce, music, gaming and comedy, and they make huge profits from their millions of loyal fans. As a result, they can often wield the same clout as top list celebrities.

But many streamers like Lawyer Longfei are struggling with the Chinese government’s growing willingness to influence what is acceptable. new policy document Code of Conduct for Online Streamers, released by China’s top cultural bodies on June 22, is meant to instruct streamers on what is expected of them. In recent years, streamers who have managed to operate under the radar are now facing the full force of China’s censorship machine.

The Code of Conduct lists 31 categories of content that should not appear in online videos, ranging from violence and self-harm to more controversial concepts such as religious teachings and displays of wealth. The guidelines also include guidelines for the appearance of streamers and prohibit the use of deepfakes for jokes about China’s leadership.

“I think of it as a bottom-up integration effort that aims to cover the entire country, all online platforms, and every genre of online streaming,” says Jingyi Gu, a Ph.D. student of Chinese streamers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. It replaces previous rules that are fragmented or provincial and also complements other rules governing platforms and marketing companies. “[This one] considers online streamers as a separate profession, like actors,” says Gu.

It is clear that the Chinese government is in the process of taming an industry that has become too powerful to be ignored. Over the past year, some of China’s top streamers have fallen from their thrones after being fined for tax evasion or censorship of political events. But by putting the limits on paper, the Code of Conduct paves the way for further interventions in the future.

“End of the Universe”

There is a popular saying in China right now: “The end of the universe is to sell things live.” It makes fun of the fact that these days, professionals of all professions…lawyers, teachers, celebrities— they seem to have become streamers, earning money by acting as QVC-style product launchers.

“Americans and Europeans definitely don’t see live streaming as a major shopping channel, and maybe not even a major entertainment channel, but in China, it’s become incredibly popular,” Gu says.

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