Briefing: Time-rental apps in China linked with prostitution

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藏涉黄暗号、存安全隐患……“租人”APP灰色地带该如何治理? – Xinhua

What happened: Time-rental apps, which allow individuals to buy one another’s time, are being scrutinized after an investigation revealed that the platforms are being used for prostitution. The apps, including Zuwo, Zuwome and Peiwo, were designed to help lonely individuals find someone to talk to, and eat, exercise, or play games with, but are now being used to solicit sexual services. Though information about the illicit activities does not show up within the apps, when state broadcaster China National Radio contacted a number of the sellers, they were told that sex services were on offer.

Why it’s important: Prostitution is illegal in China, like most countries. From February 2014 to June 2014, 3033 people were arrested after Guangdong police launched a campaign to crack down on prostitution and pornography. A year later, the rental bike business model caught on, including players Mobike and Ofo, and flooded China’s streets with bicycles. The idea of the rental economy permeated every aspect of Chinese people’s life, leaving not just things, but also people, up for rent. Peng Peng, a lawyer from Gansu Shengzhou law offices, told Xinhua that an app should have the freedom to apply its creative idea if it observes the law and related ethics, but if its initial plan is to make use of a legal gray area, then it should not be ignored by authorities.