China’s short video platforms face backlash over “vulgar content”

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The People’s Daily is reporting that short video platforms have been found teeming with inappropriate and vulgar content (in Chinese). Video streaming sites such as Douyin, Kuaishou, and Meipai have risen to popularity in China the past few years, but lately, there has been backlash online and in China’s traditional media. The most recent incident that stunned China’s internet community was when a father from Wuhan dropped his two-year-old daughter as he tried to lift her into the air, attempting to recreate a video seen on Douyin. The accident resulted in a serious spine injury.

Inappropriate content online like these attract views, likes, and shares and can easily garner over tens of thousand likes on short video platforms. Some streaming sites have been found to purposefully place provocative content on their landing page to increase traffic.

The People’s Daily article indicates that algorithms and automated suggestions are often being made the scapegoat for the spread of inappropriate content. “Neutral algorithms and machine suggestions shouldn’t become the excuse for platforms to shirk their responsibilities of auditing and moderating content on their sites,” Chu Wei, the deputy director of the Communications Law Research center at China University of Political Science and Law, said that companies should take the responsibility of checking what is being put on their platforms.

Video platforms like Douyin have video editing tools that make it easy for users to create their own content. As video streaming platforms become more popular in China, internet users are not only audiences of these sites, they are becoming participants themselves. A survey cited in the article shows that 49.1% of the respondents reportedly spend over half an hour a day watching short videos online and 66.3% said they have uploaded self-produced short videos on the internet.

China’s short video streaming market is growing exponentially. The 2017-2018 China Short Video Industry Trends and User Behavior Study by iiMediaResearch indicate that the short video user base has passed 240 million and is estimated to reach 353 million this year. Chinese internet community’s obsession with short videos has been giving regulators headaches, and popular streaming sites are under pressure to audit content that is being uploaded to their site.