Lifestyle-focused social platform Xiaohongshu has been slapped with an RMB 300,000 (USD 47,300) fine by local authorities in Shanghai for failing to remove content that was deemed harmful to minors, according to information posted on enterprise data aggregator Tianyancha on Monday.
According to a media report from December 2021, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said it found videos posted on Xiaohongshu showing underage girls in various states of undress, featured in advertisements for underwear brands. CCTV also found videos showing teenage girls’ precise geolocation, possibly revealing the subject’s frequently visited areas and leading to privacy and safety concerns.
The Bureau of Culture and Tourism of Shanghai’s Huangpu district said Xiaohongshu had violated a cybersecurity law that guarantees protection for minors but did not cite the specific law. On January 24, Xiaohongshu said in a statement that the posts in question went live on the platform due to a glitch in its content screening system.
With 130 million active users, Xiaohongshu is often referred to as a Chinese counterpart of Instagram. Parents often post content related to their children on the platform. However, some adult users were found to be featuring their children—typically their daughters—in sexually suggestive images to draw clicks.
This is the second major crisis that Xiaohongshu has faced in the past few months, following widespread criticism of heavily filtered and stylized photographs posted by users that presented deceptive images of touristic locations.
The Chinese government has previously invoked the protection of minors as a necessity to change the way tech companies and platforms operate. In August 2021, the implementation of a three-hour cap in video game playtime was framed as a measure to create a “healthier” environment for younger generations.
In July 2021, the Chinese government revised China’s Minors Protection Law aimed at protecting underage internet users. The amendment includes requirements for hardware manufacturers to install software to prevent minors from accessing explicit content and restrictions that prohibit online service providers from generating personalized content for minors.