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What just happened? China is once again tightening its grip on the country's internet. This time, the restrictions relate to under-18s and how they interact and access livestreaming services, including banning youths from being able to tip streamers and locking out kids' accounts from 10pm onwards.
SCMP reports that China on Saturday told livestreaming platforms to step up governance on how under-18s use their services. The news comes just weeks after reports revealed the country was preparing to slam its $30 billion livestreaming industry with new regulations. Last month, it launched a new campaign to clean up the "chaos" within the sector.
The policy changes, issued by four regulators including the National Radio and Television Administration and the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), prohibit livestreaming platforms from offering tipping services to minors. This includes cash top-ups, gift purchases, and online payments. The rule is to be enforced by strictly adhering to the real-name registration requirement.
"If platforms are found to violate the above requirements, measures including suspension of the tipping feature and shutting down of the live-streaming business could be put in place," the regulators wrote in a statement.
Additionally, platforms are being asked to create dedicated youth content censorship teams, and they must shut down parental-controlled 'youth mode' user activities after 10pm to "ensure they [under-18s] have enough time to rest."
Elsewhere, users aged between 16 and 18 must now obtain permission from their parents or guardians before live-streaming—those under 16 are banned from streaming.
Regulators say the tightened rules are to improve the "physical and mental health" of China's youth.
While Twitch and YouTube are two of the many Western sites blocked in China, Douyin—the country's version of TikTok—is very popular, as are Taobao Live, Bilibili, and Tencent's Huya & Douyu. Around 70% of China's internet users tune in to livestreaming services, bringing in an audience of more than 700 million last year.
Last week brought news that Sina Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, would be publishing users' IP addresses and location data in an effort to combat unwanted behavior on the platform.
Masthead image: Jéan Béller