Douyin unveils new content rules to safeguard minors

Business & Technology

A new set of rules released by Douyin aims to curb young Chinese users from being corrupted by online media.

Image via Global Times

In a continuation of Beijing’s crackdown on online content, Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, has released new rules — in place since March 11 — prohibiting livestreamers from such behaviors as falsifying one’s popularity and soliciting money from minors.

  • The 10-point list begins with a ban on leading minors toward in-app purchases, followed by a litany of sometimes vague and moralized language. They include prohibitions on licentiousness, vulgarity, gang relations, and the “subversion of traditional moral values.”
  • As of Monday, Douyin reportedly punished 36 livestreamers for rule violations. Four repeat offenders have been stripped of livestreaming privileges for at least a week.
  • Last September, Douyin’s parent company, ByteDance, unveiled “Youth Mode,” a version of the app for minors under 14. Under this version, kids are restricted to only 40 minutes of daily consumption and shut out from the app after 10 p.m. Youth Mode also includes new educational content, including science experiments, museum exhibitions, and historical explainers.

Business in the morning.

It only takes two minutes each day to stay tapped in to the world’s second largest economy. Sign up for Tipsheet, delivered to your inbox for free at 9am ET daily.

The content: Douyin’s restrictions are part of a nationwide campaign to crack down on media influences that are corrupting Chinese youths. Last August, Beijing forced online gaming companies to restrict children under 18 to only three hours of gameplay a week.

  • China’s restrictions on screen time have become enormously popular with parents. “It’s near impossible to control how much time your kids play games these days,” one Shanghai father told SupChina. “So having an outside controller is a great thing.”
  • In the U.S., the tech humanist Tristan Harris popularized China’s new rules for games and short videos on the Joe Rogan podcast. In a surprising bit on Fox News, the host Tucker Carlson lauded the communist regime’s decisiveness: “When was the last time you heard one of our political leaders even mention video games?”

The takeaway: When it comes to China’s moderation policies, the warming to autocracy by some U.S. opinion leaders is symptomatic of democracy’s collective impotence against Big Tech. As Will Oremus of the Washington Post wrote last year, “China is doing what the U.S. can’t seem to: regulate its tech giants.”