How China is taking drastic measures to prevent teenagers from TikTok

If the crackdown on video games takes place in 2021, the social media industry will surely be scared, because many Chinese have already compared short video apps like Douyin to video games in terms of addiction. As if the sword of Damocles could fall at any moment.

That possibility seems more certain now. On February 27, the National Radio and Television Administration, China’s top authority on media production and consumption, said it had convened a meeting to work on “enforcing the regulation of short videos and preventing minors adult users who become addicts.” The news of the meeting sent a clear signal to Chinese social media platforms that the government is not happy with the current measures and they need to make new ones.

What will the new measures look like? This may even mean stricter rules on screen time and content. But the announcement also mentions some other interesting directions, such as requiring creators to obtain a license to provide content for teenagers and developing ways for the government to regulate the algorithms themselves. As the situation develops, we should expect to see more new steps taken by China to impose limits on Douyin and similar platforms.

As for the US, even reaching the level of China’s existing regulations around social media would require significant changes.

To ensure that no Chinese teenagers use their parents’ accounts to view or post on Douyin, each account is linked to the user’s real identity, and the company says that facial recognition tech is used to monitor the creation of livestream content. Sure, those measures help prevent teenagers from looking for solutions, but they also have privacy implications for all users.and I don’t believe that everyone will decide to sacrifice those rights just to make sure they can control what children see.

We can see how the control versus privacy trade-off has previously played out in China. Prior to 2019, the gaming industry had a theoretical daily playing time limit for underage players, but it was not enforced in real time. Now there is a central database created for players, tied to facial recognition systems developed by major game publishers such as Tencent and NetEase, which can verify everyone’s identity in seconds.

On the content side of things, Douyin’s teen mode prohibits many types of content from being displayed, including videos of pranks, “superstitions,” or “entertainment sites” — places like at dance or karaoke clubs that teenagers don’t need to be in. While the content is likely selected by ByteDance employees, Chinese social media companies are often punished by the government for failing to implement full censorship, and that means decisions about what’s worth viewing Adolescence is finally done by the state. Even the normal version of Douyin often removes pro-LGBTQ content on the grounds that they present “bad and non-mainstream views of marriage and love.”

There is a dangerously thin line between content moderation and cultural censorship. As people lobby for more protections for their children, we need to answer some tough questions about what social media limits look like—and what we’re willing to trade. for them.

Leave a Comment