China Mandates Livestream Platforms Collect Private Info to Swiftly Handle ‘Bad Information’

Chinese livestreamer Li Jaiqi. Screenshot via YouTube.
Screenshot via YouTube

Chinese live-streaming platforms are now required to collect personal information and “social credit codes” from their users so internet regulators may “immediately handle” any behavior deemed illegal or “immoral” by the ruling Communist Party, the Chinese government mandated Friday.

According to an April 23 regulation issued by seven Chinese government agencies, including China’s Cyberspace Administration and China’s Ministry of Public Security:

[L]ivestreamers will need to provide their real names as well as social credit codes to the livestreaming marketing platforms they use. The platforms will in turn have to submit their identity information and other information concerning tax to local tax authorities. Livestreamers will also need to be above the age of 16 unless they’re under supervision of an adult [sic].

“In addition, these platforms will step up monitoring of livestreaming content and must immediately handle any illegal and bad information,” China’s state-run Global Times noted.

The mandate takes effect May 25 and “requires livestreaming platforms to blacklist those with records of serious violations or immorality,” according to China Daily, a newspaper owned by the publicity department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“The regulation … stipulates people engaged in livestreamed marketing must provide true, accurate, and necessary information on their products. No content that could mislead or defraud consumers is allowed,” China Daily reported. “It also prohibits activities such as selling counterfeit goods, infringing upon intellectual property rights, falsifying online views, and tampering transaction figures.” The mandate also bans live streamers from promoting pyramid schemes and gambling.

Livestreaming as a form of e-commerce has boomed in China over the past year during the Chinese coronavirus pandemic as more people look to conduct business online from home. Taobao, an online shopping website founded by the Chinese multinational technology giant Alibaba, is one of the most popular platforms in China for livestreaming. Other Chinese-owned internet services, such as ByteDance’s Douyin, known outside of China as TikTok, and Tencent-backed Kuaishou offer popular livestreaming platforms.

Hundreds of thousands of e-commerce hosts across China “sell goods from personal care products to food and cars in real-time livestreaming. Top livestreamers like ‘lipstick king’ Li Jiaqi [pictured] and Viya are able to sell goods worth millions of yuan in a single livestreaming session,” according to the Global Times.

“According to industry analysis platform chyxx.com, the livestreaming e-commerce industry was estimated to be nearly worth 971 billion yuan ($149 billion) in 2020, which is more than double the 443.8 billion yuan scale in 2019,” the Global Times reported.

Livestreaming generated even greater revenue in 2020, according to China Daily:

Last year, there were about 24 million e-commerce livestreaming events on key online platforms, with an estimated total turnover exceeding 1 trillion yuan ($154 billion) according to a report jointly released by Chinese Association of Market Development, AliResearch — the research arm of the country’s e-commerce giant Alibaba — and Taobao Live in March.

The Global Times, a newspaper, like China Daily, owned by the CCP, provided some explanation Friday for the Chinese government’s new crackdown on live streaming:

As the Chinese economy was being battered by the pandemic, the livestreaming industry played an active role in staving off unemployment, driving up domestic demands as well as poverty alleviation. However, the industry has also aroused wide criticism with many consumers accusing some livestreamers of misrepresenting products or even selling counterfeit products.

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