China’s internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), has published guidelines that aim to stop minors from giving tips or other forms of payment to livestreamers, watching after 10pm, or livestreaming themselves.
“Website platforms must not develop functional applications that attract minors to tip or induce minors to give ‘gifts.’ If it is found that the website platform violates the aforementioned requirements, measures such as suspending the tipping function and shutting down the live broadcast business will be implemented,” said the recently published Opinions on Regulating Online Live Rewards and Strengthening the Protection of Minors (in Chinese).
The opinions were issued jointly by China’s Central Civilization Office, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, and State Internet Information Office. The focus was to “persist in taking the socialist core values as the guide.”
Viewers giving tips, online gifts or other forms of payments to livestreamers is a common phenomenon in China that grew significantly during the pandemic. Livestreamers use platforms like China’s TikTok equivalent Douyin, Alibaba-backed Bilibili, and Tencent’s Huya and Duya most often to sell goods and services in addition to garnering tips.
If minors try to circumvent the rules and use adult accounts, the platforms may be responsible for providing refunds.
Last March, Beijing took measures to make it more difficult for livestreamers to evade taxes while requiring them to register, use their real name, and refrain from marketing tactics it deemed “false publicity.”
Beijing’s qualm with livestreaming and its tech is that the practice can result in physical and mental health issues, as well as create “social problems.”
The CAC also said that the public have strongly responded, which most likely means parents are unhappy about having to pay livestream-associated bills accrued by their children.
There is also concern that teenagers will spend their evenings staying up late online and therefore not have sufficient rest time, hence the 10pm curfew.
Beyond abusing parental credit cards, it is well established that platform algorithms, like those used in TikTok and Instagram, have addictive and harmful qualities – an unfortunate attribute at a time when Beijing is keen to crack down on internet behaviors.