State-backed commentators in China are continually shaping the conversation around the crackdown on internet companies. An article published on Friday by People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee’s official newspaper, accused online video platforms of imbuing negative influence on young people and causing them to develop habits of idol worship.
The article’s author blasted online video platforms for contributing to “unhealthy fan culture” by deploying content recommendation algorithms and big data processing capabilities. Streaming platforms encourage fans to spend money to secure prominent advertising and content presentation positions for their favorite idols on these sites, and to leave as many comments as possible to push their idols’ names into top trending topics. Minors have been drawn into crowdfunding campaigns and even scams.
Meanwhile, these video platforms link up with brand sponsors to monetize this online traffic.
The People’s Daily article reiterated that some video platforms have failed to scrutinize “inappropriate” content, suggesting that it was up to tech companies to moderate the information that users consume rather than place profits first. The author did not name specific service providers but indicated several ways that regulators should take action to supervise the usage of content recommendation algorithms, which are utilized by the video platforms of Tencent, ByteDance, and Kuaishou.
Kuaishou’s share price dropped by as much as 11.8% during morning trading in Hong Kong on Friday, and closed with a 4.7% dip. The loss came after Thursday’s record drop of 15.3% after the post-IPO lockup on sales of its shares expired and Kuaishou’s announcement that it would terminate its TikTok clone for the US market, Zynn, on August 20. Monday trading involved a slow slide into the late afternoon, declining 2.80% at press time.
Beijing’s tech crackdown has taken place on multiple fronts, including fintech, education, and data sovereignty and security. Its most recent squeezes are all on technology service providers that shape the behaviors of minors.
Last month, the central government rolled out its harshest curbs yet on the after-school tutoring industry, mandating that all edtech companies and after-school tutoring firms operate on a not-for-profit basis, wiping out billions of dollars of market value from the sector. Last week, state media called online games “spiritual opium” and “electronic drugs” that poison minors, sending game companies’ shares plunging by more than 10%.
The criticism of short video platforms in People’s Daily mirrors recurring critiques by government entities and tech company representatives sniping at each other regarding the “vulgar content” that is hosted online. It also links up with the influence that celebrity culture holds over young people in China, a conversation that is taking place in Chinese society. During this year’s Two Sessions legislative meeting in March, representatives put forward a proposal for the Ministry of Civil Affairs to supervise online celebrity fan clubs and the behavior of their members.