ByteDance’s Douyin fined maximum amount for spreading vulgar content
Published: Jan 08, 2021 07:48 PM

TikTok, a global music and video platform created in 2016 by Chinese internet technology company ByteDance, is known in China as Douyin. Photo: VCG

Chinese short video platform Douyin, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has been fined the maximum amount by regulators for spreading obscene, pornographic and vulgar content. The platform could also be subjected to tightened regulations over its algorithms-driven business model, after a Chinese consumer group sent a stern warning to internet platforms on how they have been abusing their algorithms to "bully" consumers.

Some users have sexual provocations, sexual suggestions, and smoking in their live broadcasts in Douyin, and the comment barrage in some live broadcast rooms contains vulgar content, the office for pornographic and vulgar content censorship said on Friday. 

Video game broadcasts are not approved and often contain blood, violence, terror-related content. Some Douyin streamers and commentators also lead users to other platforms for illegal activities by publishing WeChat accounts and QR codes.

The office said giant internet platforms have a huge number of users, and once harmful content is publicly distributed, it will have extremely bad effects. 

The Chinese Consumer Association (CCA) also said on Thursday that it will strengthen regulations of online retailing algorithms to protect consumers' right to fair trade

CCA noted that some internet platforms have been abusing their algorithms - which are supposed to improve operating efficiency to offer more diversified and high-quality services - to "bully" consumers or even distort their values and moral ideas. 

"The unfair algorithm application is invisible but affects consumers' purchases unconsciously. If developed in a disorderly way, it is not conducive for fair competition in the market or sustainable development of the economy," CCA said in a statement on its website.

It urged platform operators to uphold the principle of comprehensiveness and fairness in the use of algorithm technology. It stressed that the application should be in line with core socialist values to maintain public social order and good customs. 

Li Yi, a senior research fellow at the Internet Research Center of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Friday that if China's internet firms do not remedy their wrongdoings, Chinese regulators would probably take action to penalize them.

"China's internet companies are developing too fast, with some already going astray to pursue quick gains. Top-down correction is necessary, and will make the internet platforms reflect on why they would hunt for a quick profit over investing technology for the future. It will benefit the industry's long-term development," Li noted.

Global Times